Today, the US Supreme Court struck down a controversial abortion clinic law in Texas. Here's what it means:
1. Although the underlying legislation was probably prompted by the familiar "pro-life, pro-choice" fight, the Supreme Court's decision did not actually discuss the morals of abortion. Most headlines and much of the live commentary went to great lengths to create that impression.
2. The Supreme Court's decision did hinge on a principle familiar to most 2nd year law students: equal protection. Essentially, when the government passes a law, they cannot do so constitutionally if the law favors one group while disfavoring another group, unless there is some provable benefit to doing so.
3. The Texas law required abortion clinics to meet the standards of a surgical hospital, ostensibly for the health of the women seeking an abortion. It was not officially passed for the purpose of stopping or reducing the number of abortions. However, the Supreme Court noted that Texas did not require this standard for other groups that assisted women in a similar fashion. For example, Texas law protected midwives ability to assist in birthing in the woman's home, which did not meet the surgical hospital standard.
4. The Supreme Court was divided on whether there was evidence that the Texas law made women safer or whether it reduced the availability of abortion clinics, but a majority of justices gave the opinion that it did not accomplish the former while disproportionately causing the latter.
5. The entire Texas law was not struck down - only this portion of it.
6. This was a 5-3 decision, so it is very unlikely that the law's backers would have gotten a different result if Republicans had approved a replacement for Justice Scalia.
We hope this helps!