January 14, 2016

Jenner & Block filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, National Association of Social Workers, the Texas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and Re:Gender in support of petitioners in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the first major reproductive rights case the US Supreme Court has taken up in recent years, urging the Court to reverse the opinion of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which upheld certain abortion restrictions in a Texas law, House Bill 2. These restrictions—which require physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinic and require clinics performing abortions to meet the standards of an ambulatory surgery center—would force more than 75 percent of the abortion facilities in Texas to close.

Amici are organizations committed to improving the health and well-being of women and children nationally and in the state of Texas. Their brief sets forth the particularly poor health and well-being outcomes facing women and their families in Texas, including higher cancer incidence and mortality rates, lower life expectancy, and lack of access to affordable health and prenatal care.  The brief explains how these poor health outcomes in part reflect policy choices of the Texas legislature.  Because Texas justified the restrictions in its abortion legislation as intended to improve the health of women in the state, Amici Curiae encouraged the Supreme Court to take into account Texas’s sustained failure to improve the health and well-being of its women and children in assessing whether the purpose behind the legislation withstands constitutional scrutiny.

The case has been described as the most significant Supreme Court battle over abortion in a generation and has the potential to redefine the contours of a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion.  If the Texas law is upheld, the decision could significantly curtail women’s access to safe abortion services.  Forty-five amicus briefs were filed in support of petitioners, from an exceptionally diverse range of organizations and individuals—spanning the political and religious spectrum—demonstrating the far-reaching and personal impact of this case on women’s health and liberty.

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument on March 2, 2016.

The Jenner & Block team includes Partners Susan J. Kohlmann (counsel of record), Katya Jestin and Matthew S. Hellman and Associates Alison I. Stein, Jeremy H, Ershow, Jessica A. Martinez, Jenna A. Ross and Gretchen O. Stertz, with assistance from Associate Michael E. Stewart.