Elated cheers rang out from the steps of the supreme court on Monday morning as the justices handed down a decision that overturned a slate of restrictions that would have closed all but a handful of abortion providers in Texas. The landmark ruling is considered one of the most consequential and sweeping legal victories for reproductive rights since the court handed down Roe v Wade in 1973.
Hillary Clinton immediately hailed the decision as a “victory for women across America”. Donald Trump did not immediately comment on the decision.
“By striking down politically motivated restrictions that made it nearly impossible for Texans to exercise their full reproductive rights, the court upheld every woman’s right to safe, legal abortion, no matter where she lives,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said.
The Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who was defeated by Clinton in the Democratic primary, also applauded the decision.
“After all the progress we have made on women’s rights, we cannot go back to the days when women in America did not have the right to control their own bodies,” Sanders said.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said that the opinion would be a “defining issue” for female voters, a group that Trump is struggling to court.
“I think we are going to see a record gender gap in November and this is going to be one of the main reasons, and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, as well as others, will be making this an important point in the months to come,” Richards said on MSNBC after the ruling.
The group has criticized the presumptive Republican nominee for his silence following the Monday morning decision.
In the early days of the Republican primary, Trump’s opponents criticized his evolving stance on abortion. In an interview from 1999, Trump said he “hates” the concept of abortion but considered himself “very pro-choice”. He attributed his stance to having grown up in New York, which led to Ted Cruz’s memorable claim that Trump espoused liberal “New York values”.
More recently, Trump suggested there should be some form of punishment for women who have abortions. Hours later, his campaign in effect retracted the statement and said that if abortions were ever outlawed, he would expect the doctor who performed the procedure to be punished.
On Monday, Clinton attacked Trump for his muddled stance on the issue.
“Today’s decision is a reminder of how much is at stake in this election,” she said, adding that Trump had also supported efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. “We need a president who will defend women’s health and rights and appoint supreme court justices who recognize Roe v Wade as settled law. We must continue to protect access to safe and legal abortion – not just on paper, but in reality.”
Elsewhere in Washington and around the country, the decision received reactions on predictable party lines.
The Democratic Nevada senator Harry Reid noted that even without nine justices, “the court clearly saw through the sham law enacted by the state of Texas solely to limit women’s rights and restrict access to healthcare”.
Wendy Davis, the former Democratic state senator from Texas who staged a filibuster to stop an abortion bill, said she was “overjoyed”.
“I was fighting back tears a moment ago as I was reading the Scotus blog and the first line that came out, saying that the fifth circuit opinion or decision had been reversed. It’s incredible news for the women of Texas,” Davis said on MSNBC. “It’s incredible news for the women throughout this country.”
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi welcomed the ruling.
Meanwhile, the House speaker, Paul Ryan, said he was “disappointed”.
Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, said he was profoundly disappointed in the decision.
“Texas enacted HB 2’s commonsense health standards to ensure that women receive safe care,” Cruz wrote. “Unfortunately, the Supreme Court sided with abortion extremists who care more about providing abortion-on-demand than they do protecting women’s health.”
The majority opinion, which was decided 5-3, extinguished the argument that the Texas law was predicated on improving women’s health.
“It is beyond rational belief that H.B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions’,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who joined Justice Stephen Breyer in his majority opinion. “When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners ... at great risk to their health and safety.”