Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt challenged Texas abortion clinic regulations known as TRAP laws.
Finally: Some good news. a katz/Shutterstock

In the most important abortion case since the 1990s, the United States Supreme Court has sided with women. In a 5-3 decision, the court ruled today that severe regulations that have forced some abortion clinics in Texas to close are unconstitutional.

Specifically, the court looked at two rules, one requiring that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and another requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as surgical centers.

"We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes," wrote Justice Stephen Breyer for the majority. "Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access... and each violates the Federal Constitution."

After Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey that states could impose restrictions on abortions as long as those restrictions didn't place an "undue burden" on patients. After all, a right means nothing if you can't exercise that right.

The case the court ruled on today—Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt—arose after Texas lawmakers passed new rules for abortion clinics that were so strict many clinics could not meet them. The results were disastrous. Nearly 75 percent of Texas clinics have closed since 2013, according to the clinic that brought the case, and between 100,000 and 240,000 women in Texas have tried to self-induce abortions. (If you want to learn more about these laws and the doctors who kept providing abortions in Texas anyway, watch this.)

The rules, often called TRAP laws, were created under the guise of protecting patients, despite the fact that abortion is incredibly safe.

Breyer's opinion spells out how just how absurd the rules are (emphasis mine):

Nationwide, childbirth is 14 times more likely than abortion to result in death, ibid., but Texas law allows a midwife to oversee childbirth in the patient’s own home. Colonoscopy, a procedure that typically takes place outside a hospital (or surgical center) setting, has a mortality rate 10 times higher than an abortion. Id., at 276–277; see ACOG Brief 15 (the mortality rate for liposuction, another outpatient procedure, is 28 times higher than the mortality rate for abortion).

In her concurring opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited studies showing abortion is no more dangerous than other medical procedures and wrote, "Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that [the Texas law] could genuinely protect the health of women."

Today's ruling means Texas's laws can no longer stand and no other states can legally replicate those laws and severely restrict women's access to abortions.

Want to celebrate? Two events are planned in Seattle today. Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and other groups will hold a rally at 5:30 p.m. at Seattle Central College. Shout Your Abortion is organizing a separate event at 10th and Pike. That rally starts around 9 p.m. with a very-cool-but-still-secret element set to begin at 9:45 p.m. See you out there.