Ferguson joined other state AGs in filing arguments in case with high court
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today issued the following statement on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt:
“I’m pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized today that this Texas law served only to chisel away at a woman’s constitutional right to reproductive choice.
“That law, had it gone into effect, would have severely limited the availability of safe abortion services in one of the largest states in the union.
“The justices made the right decision.”
Texas enacted a statue in 2013 requiring that any physician performing an abortion must have active admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the site of the abortion, and that any facility in which abortions are performed must meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers. While the stated legislative intent was to improve health care for women, medical evidence showed that the law would reduce women’s access to safe abortion services.
In 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld the majority of the law. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case, and oral arguments were heard earlier this year.
Ferguson joined 13 other states -- New York, the lead author, as well as California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia -- and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the Fifth Circuit made several errors in its analysis of whether the Texas law created an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.
The brief also argued that the Fifth Circuit erred by considering the availability of abortion services in New Mexico, because each state bears an independent obligation to ensure that its laws do not infringe on the constitutional rights of persons within its borders.
The law had already shuttered about half of Texas’s abortion clinics, and if the remaining provisions of the law go into effect, fewer than 10 could continue to operate, in a state comprising over a quarter of a million square miles. These clinics would all be concentrated in urban areas, leaving tens of thousands of women without access to their constitutionally protected right to abortion services.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov