NASHVILLE - The head of a Memphis abortion provider that is suing Tennessee over its abortion restrictions hailed today's U.S. Supreme Court's ruling striking down Texas' limits and said she's "confident" a similar fate awaits two laws in the Volunteer State.
"With this landmark decision the U.S. Supreme Court continues the powerful momentum for women's rights and against political interference in our right to safe, legal abortion," said Rebecca Terrell, executive director of CHOICES.
Terrell went on in her statement to say "we are gratified that the Supreme Court has recognized that these clinic shut-down laws violate women's fundamental rights and are confident that the similar sham laws in Tennessee that CHOICES and other providers have challenged in federal court will soon be struck down."
The nation's highest court today voted 5-3 to strike down Texas' abortion clinics law in the court's biggest abortion case in nearly a quarter century.
Texas clinics had charged the regulations were a disguised effort to make it harder for women to get an abortion in the nation's second-most populous state.
Justice Stephen Breyer's majority opinion held that the regulations are medically unnecessary and unconstitutionally limit a woman's right to an abortion.
Texas had argued that its 2013 law and subsequent regulations were needed to protect women's health, an argument advanced by Tennessee lawmakers on two state laws here.
Texas' rules required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery.
Tennessee lawmakers passed two similar laws in 2012 and 2014. The 2012 law requires that a physician performing an abortion here have hospital admitting privileges.
In 2014, the GOP-dominated General Assembly passed a second law. It requires all abortion clinics that perform 50 or more surgical abortions to meet the requirements of ambulatory surgical care centers.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who signed both measures into law, told reporters this morning that he hadn't seen the decision.
"I'd have to see and see how their [Texas's] laws set compared to what our's does to have any comment," Haslam said, promising to get back with reporters.
Memphis-based CHOICES as well as Knoxville and Bristol clinics challenged Tennessee's restrictions in a federal lawsuit filed last year.
David Fowler, an attorney and president of the socially conservative Family Action Council of Tennessee, said he wants to look at the opinion to see how justices' rationale applies to language used in Tennessee's laws.
"I'm not sure how our statutes may have differed, if any, because I didn't lobby on or work on those statutes," Fowler, a former state senator from Signal Mountain, said in an email. "My gut would say that the court would find our laws unconstitutional.
"I think it would be a fair statement at this point to say that the decision has certainly put into question whether TN's similar statute would be struck down as well," added Fowler, who while in the state Senate initiated a resolution, later passed by the General Assembly and ultimately adopted by state voters that removed all abortion protections from the Tennessee Constitution.
Fowler noted that "technically a Supreme Court decision only binds the parties to the case and only serves as precedent for what the court would do in a lawsuit involving a similarly situated state with the same law."
But Fowler said "few states enforce laws once one state's law is struck down because they realize they would lose if they got sued, but legally our law was not 'ruled unconstitutional per se.'"
U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., a registered nurse and former state senator who took over Fowler's constitutional resolution after he left the Senate in 2006, decried Monday's Supreme Court ruling.
"Today is a sad day for women and their unborn babies," Black said in a statement. "With the drop of a gavel, five Supreme Court justices have endangered the safety of women who may seek an abortion and have ensured that more innocent, unborn lives will be lost in the process."
She called such standards "modest."
"This profoundly disappointing and cruel decision reinforces why the pro-life movement is more important than ever, and why the stakes are so high this November," Black said. "Just as we worked for over a decade to overturn Planned Parenthood of Middle Tennessee vs. Sundquist in my state, we must now work to overturn this decision at the federal level and restore a culture where every child is welcomed in life and protected in law."
But Thomas H. Castelli, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, praised the decision, saying it "sends a strong message that laws imposed to create obstacles for a woman seeking to end a pregnancy rather than to actually safeguard her health violate the Constitution.
"The Supreme Court's ruling strongly suggests that similar Tennessee laws should be struck down as unconstitutional, as they amount to political interference in a woman's private healthcare decisions and do nothing to protect a woman's health," Castelli added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.