Leaders Abortion in America Back in court
It may poison the 2016 election, but the Supreme Court should strike down Texas's restrictive abortion law. As if next year's presidential election were not shaping up to be contentious enough, the Supreme Court has picked 2016 to issue its most consequential ruling on abortion in 20 years. This will add fresh impetus to a cultural battle that has raged, unresolved, on America's national stage for almost half a century. That is regrettable.It is also necessary. At issue is whether a law passed by the Texas legislature called HB2 is constitutional. The state has piled regulations on abortion clinics with the aim (so far rather successful) of closing them down.
The number of such clinics in the state has dropped from 41 in 2012 to 18 at the last count. If the court rules next year that HB2 is constitutional, that number will shrink further. Other states keen to restrict legal access to abortion would follow suit. Already there are four that have only one clinic for the whole state, making the legal termination of a pregnancy a right that exists in theory but not in practice.
A clear majority of Americans have, for decades, told pollsters that abortion should be legal in most cases. More recently, a narrower majority has emerged for outlawing abortion after 20 weeks, with some exceptions. That position—access to abortion that is legal and unrestricted until late in the second trimester, with some restrictions thereafter—is not unlike the compromise reached in other countries. In more secular Britain abortion is banned after 24 weeks, with exceptions in cases where to continue the pregnancy would threaten the life of the mother, or where the child is likely to be severely disabled.