Will SCOTUS Tie On Texas Abortion Case?

The Supreme Court is taking on its first major case since Antonin Scalia’s death. Here’s what you need to know:

By Bronte Price, PoliticKING

All eyes are on the Supreme Court as it takes on, what some are calling, one of its most influential cases in a decade. The case being heard is a Texas law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that clinics upgrade their facilities to hospital like standards. The law would essentially force clinics to be mini hospitals in order to continue operating. If the law does in fact go into effect, it could close the doors on all but about 10 clinics in Texas.

According to CNN, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller was interrogated by all the three of the  female justices on the bench and by Justice Stephen Breyer. The justices questioned Keller about the impact the law would have on poor women living far from the remaining clinics, and about the medical necessity of the law. They also asked about the generally low risk of the abortion procedure.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is the leader of the liberal wing of the court asked several pointed questions. "How many women are located over 100 miles from the nearest clinic?" Ginsburg asked. Keller admitted that there were indeed women in that category, but said some could access a clinic in New Mexico. Ginsberg pointed out that New Mexico facilities also do not have the admitting privileges provision nor do they have the requirement to upgrade the abortion clinics which is outlined in the Texas law. "If your argument is right, then New Mexico is not an available way out," she said.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who represents the swing vote in this case, asked questions of both sides. At one point Kennedy suggested that the Court might remand the case back to the lower court to develop a fuller record.

After the recent death of Antonin Scalia, there are now only eight justices on the bench. This means that there is a possibility that the court could end up in a 4 to 4 split. A split would allow the Texas law to take effect, but it would not set a national precedent. In addition to that, if the court is split, the justices could also request re-argument next term.

Here’s what George Mitchell has to say about SCOTUS’ future:

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