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The National Catholic Bioethics Center
Supreme Court Dismantles Texas Safety Requirements for Abortion
July 2016
© 2020 by The National Catholic Bioethics Center

The City of Philadelphia, in which the NCBC is located, knows first-hand the tragedy of licensed but unregulated abortion facilities. Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion practice not only killed a woman seeking an abortion, but also, the babies born alive despite the attempts he made at aborting them. When it was raided by FBI, the practice was labeled “filthy” and “disgusting.”

The State of Texas, in its concern for the lives of pregnant women and their unborn children, passed a law requiring the same safety standards for abortion centers as there are for surgi-centers, also requiring that the abortionist have admitting privileges to a local hospital, in the very possible event that an emergency occurs during the procedure. Surgical abortion carries all the risks of any other surgery, and offices which perform abortion should have to meet the same safety standards as those who perform any other comparable surgery.

These provisions were upheld by the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, to which the NCBC filed an amicus brief in support of the State of Texas. Ironically, a group misnamed as “Whole Women’s Health” challenged that ruling to the US Supreme Court (Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt).  Five unelected Justices of the Supreme Court have prevented the State of Texas from regulating the practice of medicine within Texas.  By striking down the health and safety regulations for abortion practices, which apply to all standard surgical procedures, the Supreme Court has not only taken away the ability of state governments to regulate the practice of medicine within their states, but has also has made elective abortion practices exempt from the very provisions that prevent cases such as that of Kermit Gosnell’s. 

In effect, abortionists will not face the kind of accountability and safety requirements in which all other physicians operate. This decision has far reaching implications, as has been evidenced by the fact that in Pennsylvania a legislator immediately indicated that he will seek repeal of a 2011 law purported to be similar to that of the State of Texas. No lessons have been learned from the Kermit Gosnell case.