Crucial Abortion Case Comes Before Supreme Court

The eight remaining justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are to hear arguments Wednesday on a case that could restrict a woman’s access to a legal abortion.

The court is to consider a challenge to a law passed in 2013 in the southwestern state of Texas that imposes strict and costly regulations on abortion clinics, and forces doctors who perform abortions to obtain admitting privileges. The law has forced more than half of the state’s abortion clinics to shutdown, and left hundreds of thousands of Texas women several kilometers away from the nearest clinic.

With the Supreme Court evenly split between four liberal and four conservative justices since last month’s death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the focus of Wednesday’s arguments will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose moderate-to-conservative views make him a crucial swing vote on the court.

‘Undue burden’

Kennedy drafted a ruling 24 years ago that established that state restrictions on abortions should not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abortion.

If the justices split 4 – 4, it would leave intact an appeals court ruling last year that upheld the Texas law.

The law’s supporters say it is intended to protect women’s health, but critics say it is a thinly veiled attempt by conservatives to overturn the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion.

A decision is not expected until late June.

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