RIGHT OF THE DAY: Right to pre viability abortion without significant restrictions (an update)
YOUR RIGHT OF THE DAY: If you are pregnant, you have the right to an abortion up until the time the fetus becomes viable*, and the government may not place significant** restrictions on your ability to do so.1U.S. Constitution, 14th amendment (due process clause); Roe v Wade (1973); Planned Parenthood v Casey (1992)
*A fetus is legally considered viable when it is able to survive outside the womb; usually considered around 7 months, but could be shorter.
**Just how significantly a law restricts the right to an abortion is one of the main issues people and courts argue about.
We discussed this Constitutional right about a month ago,2see Law Soup facebook post of August 30, 2014 but the scope of this right changed today, at least for one part of the country (but it could have effects on the rest of the country).
Quick back story: Texas passed a law last year requiring abortion clinics to have facilities that are equivalent in their standards as a hospital that performs surgeries. This is a standard that most abortion clinics in Texas are not able to meet, so most would have to close down under this law, making it very difficult for many women to have ready access to a clinic.
In August, a federal court struck down the new standard as violating the right explained above, essentially because the law amounts to a significant restriction on the right to an abortion. But yesterday an appeals court disagreed and overruled the lower court, ruling that the law should remain in place. So now nearly 2/3 of Texas abortion clinics will close immediately, and many Texas women will have to drive up to 300 miles roundtrip to have an abortion.
So what does this mean for your right to an abortion? Outside of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi (the states which are subject to rulings by this appeals court), nothing immediately. But for these states, it means it may become harder for you to obtain an abortion, and it is now easier for the government to restrict your ability to have an abortion. If this ruling is “picked up” by other federal courts around the country or even by the Supreme Court, these effects would then spread throughout the country.