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Law School Case Brief

Planned Parenthood of Greater Tex. Surgical Health Servs. v. Abbott - 748 F.3d 583 (5th Cir. 2014)


Nothing in the U.S. Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence deviates from the essential attributes of the rational basis test, which affirms a vital principle of democratic self-government. It is not the courts' duty to second guess legislative factfinding, improve on, or cleanse the legislative process by allowing relitigation of the facts that led to the passage of a law. Under rational basis review, courts must presume that the law in question is valid and sustain it so long as the law is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. The rational basis test seeks only to determine whether any conceivable rationale exists for an enactment. Because the determination does not lend itself to an evidentiary inquiry in court, the state is not required to prove that the objective of the law would be fulfilled. The court may not replace legislative predictions or calculations of probabilities with its own, else it usurps the legislative power. A law based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data satisfies rational basis review. The fact that reasonable minds can disagree on legislation, moreover, suffices to prove that the law has a rational basis. Finally, there is no least restrictive means component to rational basis review. 


Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services and other abortion facilities and three physicians sued the Attorney General of Texas and other individuals, seeking to enforce their rights and those of patients for declaratory judgment and to enjoin two provisions of 2013 Texas House Bill No. 2 pertaining to the regulation of surgical abortions and abortion—inducing drugs. The first required that a physician performing or inducing an abortion have admitting privileges on the date of the abortion at a hospital no more than 30 miles from the location where the abortion is provided. The second mandated that the administration of abortion inducing drugs comply with the protocol authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, with limited exceptions. The district court held that parts of both provisions were unconstitutional and issued an opinion that would permanently enjoin the admitting—privileges provision and partially enjoin the medication abortion regulation. The State appealed.


Was the Texas House Bill unconstitutional?




The United States Supreme Court concluded that both of the challenged provisions were constitutional and reversed the judgment, with one exception, for the State. The Court held that a Texas law requiring that a physician performing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles from the location where the abortion is provided was constitutional because it had a rational basis, protecting abortion patients' health, and did not constitute an undue burden in a large fraction of cases. Moreover, a provision requiring that the giving of abortion-inducing drugs comply with the protocol authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, only limited the choice of abortion method for women who were between 50 and 63 days from their last menstrual period, and was not unconstitutional. The Court did note that abortion providers might not be able to comply with the admitting-privileges provision within 100 days; therefore, providers were required only to begin the process within 100 days.

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