By Carol Zimmermann
WASHINGTON (CNS) –The day after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major abortion ruling striking down regulations on Texas abortion clinics and doctors, it rejected an appeal to reinstate laws in Mississippi and Wisconsin that would place similar requirements on abortion doctors.
It also denied an appeal of a Washington state rule requiring pharmacists to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives despite their religious objections to doing so.
The court June 28 refused to hear appeals from Mississippi and Wisconsin challenging lower-court rulings blocking their laws similar to the one in Texas that require abortion doctors in the two states to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Federal appeals courts in Chicago and New Orleans had previously ruled against the states.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement that the court’s decision was “not surprising” after its rule on the Texas law. He had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Texas case.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said he was disappointed by the court’s Texas ruling and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said the ruling endangers women’s lives.
According to The Associated Press, if Mississippi’s law had been enacted it would have likely led to the closure of the state’s only abortion clinic.
In a 5-3 vote June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down restrictions on Texas abortion clinics that required them to comply with standards of ambulatory surgical centers and required their doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, challenged a 2013 state law, H.B. 2, placing the requirements on the state’s abortion clinics. Opponents of the law claimed the requirements were aimed at closing abortion clinics. But the state and many pro-life advocates maintained that the law protected women’s health.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and other religious groups submitted a joint friend of the court brief in the case supporting the Texas law, which was similar to other state laws regulating abortion clinics across the country.
The Supreme Court also refused to hear an appeal from pharmacists who have religious objections to a Washington state law that requires pharmacies to dispense Plan B or other emergency contraceptives also called “morning after pills.”
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they would have heard the appeal and Alito wrote a 15-page dissent against the court’s decision not to hear the case, calling it an “ominous sign.”
“If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern,” he added.
Even before the Supreme Court issued a decision on whether it would take the case, the pharmacists’ case already had gathered 14 friend of the court briefs from supportive groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The case was filed with the court by the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom. Kristen Waggoner, a senior counsel with the firm, said that the state of Washington allows pharmacists to refer customers to other pharmacists for just about any reason — except reasons of conscience – and the other 49 states allow conscience-based referrals, which are fully supported by the American Pharmacists Association and dozens more pharmacy associations.
Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.
By Carol Zimmermann