Illinois Women’s Health at Stake in Pending U.S. Supreme Court Case Over Texas Abortion Laws

Thomas More Society files amicus brief on behalf of Illinois Right to Life

doctor-650548_1920(February 4, 2016 – Washington, D.C.) – Thomas More Society has filed an amicus brief, on behalf of Illinois Right to Life, with the United States Supreme Court in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The brief urges the Court to find that the statute in question, Texas’ HB-2, is constitutional because it serves the State’s legitimate interest in protecting the health and safety of all women.

“The Supreme Court has consistently recognized the interest of the State in protecting the health and safety of its citizens as they undergo medical procedures,” said Jocelyn Floyd, Thomas More Society Associate Counsel. “And contrary to what Petitioners are arguing, this interest should not be any lower when the patient is a woman seeking an abortion than when it’s a woman seeking plastic surgery.”

Thomas More Society’s brief states that “the deplorably unsanitary state of Illinois abortion facilities, as a result of lax laws and even laxer regulations by the Illinois Department of Public Health for inspecting and holding such facilities accountable, provide a graphic illustration of why measures such as the legislation at issue in this case are necessary to protect women.”

The Texas law in question requires that abortionists have hospital admitting privileges within thirty miles and that abortion clinic facilities meet the same standards as other surgical centers, which simply bring the standard of care at abortion clinics on par with that of any other comparable surgical provider.  The brief supplies several specific examples from Illinois that show why these requirements are helpful not only for Texas, but for other states as well:

1.      Illinois’ lax abortion facility inspection policies have resulted in unsanitary, unsafe conditions, including dirty instruments, rusty equipment, and contaminated medications.

2.      Illinois’ failure to adequately regulate abortion providers has caused direct, and sometimes fatal, harm to women, including Tonya Reaves, a young Chicago woman who died from a botched abortion at an unlicensed Planned Parenthood that delayed her transfer to the hospital and then gave inadequate information to the hospital for her continued care; and Antonesha Ross, who died from a first-trimester abortion performed—despite a respiratory infection—at Women’s Aid Clinic in Lincolnwood, Illinois.

The Society’s brief recounts that “Illinois passed a similar law to what Texas has enacted, but the courts invalidated it as applied to abortion providers while permitting it to be in effect for all other types of clinics, under the logic that facilities providing abortion do not need the same regulatory oversight.”

However, as the cases of Tonya Reaves and Antonesha Ross demonstrate, as well as numerous other examples of botched abortions by Illinois Planned Parenthood (an unlicensed abortion provider) and Family Planning Associates (a licensed abortion provider), women’s lives are at risk because of inadequate regulation of Illinois abortion clinics.

“Illinois’ experience with abortion regulations, as well as examples from other states, indicate that not only does Texas have a legitimate purpose in passing HB-2, but it has a vital purpose in doing so,” Thomas More Society’s brief concludes.

Oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt are scheduled for March 2, 2016.

Read copy of Thomas More Society’s amicus brief here.

About the Thomas More Society

Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. www.thomasmoresociety.org