On Friday, November 13, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear legal arguments on a challenge to a Texas law pertaining to abortion. This will be the first major abortion case before the court since it upheld a federal ban on late-term abortions in 2007.
When asked to name landmark Supreme Court cases, most people think of Roe v. Wade, which established the legality of abortions. But there are many cases that have shaped the legal environment in the U.S. and they would make for an exciting research paper project.
Texas case review
The case to be heard by the Court is a challenge to a Texas law that requires abortion providers to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers” and doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Adam Liptak explained the impact of this case in his November 13, 2015, article for the NYTimes.com, “Supreme Court to Hear Texas Abortion Law Case.”
“Officials in Texas said that the contested provisions were needed to protect women’s health. Abortion providers responded that the regulations were expensive, unnecessary and intended to put many of them out of business,” Liptak said.
A brief overview
What is the Supreme Court, who are the justices on the Court and how does the Court operate? Find out at the website SupremeCourt.gov.
While you’re there, check out the link to the Visitor’s Guide to Oral Argument. This page explains that when a case is selected for argument that the Justices will make a decision based on their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution or federal law. There are nine Justices on the Court and at least four are required to select a case for argument.
“An attorney for each side of a case will have an opportunity to make a presentation to the Court and answer questions posed by the Justices. Prior to the argument each side has submitted a legal brief—a written legal argument outlining each party’s points of law. The Justices have read these briefs prior to argument and are thoroughly familiar with the case, its facts, and the legal positions that each party is advocating,” the site explained.
The Supreme Court
When examining major Supreme Court decisions, be sure to check out the great resources at Questia where you’ll find millions of books and articles to fuel your research.
One example of a helpful resource is the book, The Supreme Court of the United States: A Student Companion, by John J. Patrick.
This text covers nearly all aspects of the U.S. Supreme Court, including biographical articles on all of the Justices, summaries and analysis of key decisions of the Court, articles on legal terms and statutes associated with the day-to-day operations of the Court, the history of the Court and essays on major Constitutional issues.
In the section on abortion rights, Patrick pointed out that in the U.S. it has been the state governments that traditionally have regulated the performance of abortions. In 1973, the Court made its landmark ruling on abortion rights in Roe v. Wade. The Court struck down a Texas law regulating abortion as an unconstitutional infringement of a woman’s right to privacy.
When Court decisions are made, Justices may submit a written clarification or a dissent. Such is the case in Roe v. Wade where Justice Byron White wrote a dissent regarding the right to privacy.
According to Patrick, “Justice White helped to frame the controversy about abortion rights that has continued since the Roe decision. Many critics, like Justice White, have believed that questions about abortion rights should be resolved by state governments, not by the Court, as had been the long-standing practice in the American federal system of government.”
What do you think is the most important Supreme Court decision that’s been made? Tell us in the comments.