Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were the three women sitting on the United States Supreme Court which heard arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The case challenges the constitutionality of a recent attempt by the Texas legislature to restrict women’s access to abortion services.But it was Ginsburg, the court’s matriarch, who seemed the most invested in the nearly 85-minute session on Wednesday. She asked the first and last questions of both sides of the case — the clinics fighting to stay open and the state of Texas — but saved her most pointed darts by far for the Lone Star state.
“As I understand it, this is one of the lowest-risk procedures, and you give a horrible from Pennsylvania, but absolutely nothing from Texas,” Ginsburg said. “As far as we know, this is among the most safe, the least-risk procedures — an early-stage abortion.”
Then she pressed: “So what was … the problem that the legislature was responding to that it needed to improve the facilities for women’s health?”
Protecting women’s health was the chief justification Texas use to justify its restrictions on clinics where abortions could be provided. The controversial H.B.2. required abortion clinics to upgrade to hospital-grade facilities and abortion doctors to possess admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The result of this law threatens to shut all but 10 clinics in Texas, leaving millions of women with restricted access to reproductive care.
The last time the Supreme Court ruled on an abortion case, in 2007, there were five men on the bench.