Before going to Clarence Thomas’ lakeside cabin for the summer to throw what he calls, “the kegger to end all keggers”, SCOTUS ruled on some major court decisions.
For a depleted bench, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) certainly made a number of impactful judgments before their summer recess. So many in fact, we decided to aggregate them all in something we’d like to call “SCOTUS Amongus!” The play on words of a mediocre Incubus album aside, this is a way for us to do a quick rundown on some of the major decisions made in the past few days.
United States v Texas
Years from now when people make a case on why there should be a full bench on the Supreme Court, they’ll point to United States v Texas. In a 4-4 SCOTUS decision, the court ostensibly killed President Obama’s efforts to reform immigration policy by allowing 4.5 million illegal immigrants to apply for protection from deportation and work in the US. As you may have guessed, many conservative states challenged the US government in court claiming the Obama administration over-extended its legislative power with the directive.
Eventually the ruling went all the way up to the Supreme Court and with a split-decision by SCOTUS, the ruling of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stood. That meant President Obama’s policy immigration policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), would be halted. But not because SCOTUS ruled it down, but because they couldn’t break a deadlock!
After the decision was announced, President Obama made sure everyone was aware of why this happened:
To be fair, President Obama does have a point. If the court were to have a full bench, then rulings like United States v Texas would create clarity on immigration policy rather than just obscuring it even further. The deadlock now leaves around 4.5 million illegal immigrants in limbo, making a bad situation, worse.
Voisine v United States
SCOTUS handed gun control advocates and domestic violence opponents a minor victory in the Voisine v United States decision. The case revolves around Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong challenging a law that those charged with domestic violence are barred from owning a gun. The Court in a 6-2 decision thought their claim was essentially baseless, basically telling them:
While the SCOTUS decision is fairly technical in terms of legal precedence, because this case was less about the 2nd amendment and more about how we interpret state laws when implementing federal statutes, yet still if the Court would have voted the other way, it could have greatly limited domestic violence laws in the US (ie by saying Voisine’s charges were general recklessness rather than specifically being about domestic violence). Also this could have potentially made it easier for those with domestic violence records to purchase firearms.
Luckily SCOTUS didn’t do that.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
Now for the main event! Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was being looked at by both pro-life and pro-choice groups very intently because it directly dealt with the recent abortion laws that were passed in Texas. Specifically the two provisions of (1) having doctors gain “admitting privileges” (ie the authorization to admit patients at the hospital and treat them there) to perform abortions and (2) have abortion clinics be on the same standard as “ambulatory surgical centers.” Texas conservatives claim the new laws were constitutional because they specifically were designed to protect the health of the woman, while woman’s health groups claimed the law’s true purpose was to limit abortion clinics and limit a woman’s access to abortion procedures.
Well SCOTUS yesterday sided with woman’s health groups in a 5-3 decision striking down both provisions of the Texas law stating it was limiting women’s access to abortion clinics. The constitutional question that SCOTUS looked at was whether the law placed “undue burden” on women due to the state’s regulation standards on abortion clinics?
SCOTUS concluded that in fact, they did.
The decision ended up being huge for both sides of the abortion issue. For pro-choice groups, the decision was a big win in that it finally stops that wave of copy-cat laws that were following Texas’ lead. As for the pro-life movement, the decision forces them to rethink their strategy of blocking abortion access through the use of unnecessarily high clinical standards.
Regardless, if you’re a woman’s health advocate or a pro-choice supporter, you have to be letting out a sigh of relief right now. Because with this SCOTUS ruling, they just dodged a bullet.
(Photo Credits: Pixabay.com, NARAL, Google Images)