Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Case Brief

Facts of the case

In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2 (H.B. 2), which contained several provisions related to abortions. One such provision required that any physician performing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion was performed, and another provision required that all abortion clinics comply with standards for ambulatory surgical centers. The petitioners are a group of abortion providers who sued the State of Texas seeking to invalidate those provisions in H.B. 2 as they relate to facilities in McAllen and El Paso. The petitioners argued that H.B. 2 denied equal protection, unlawfully delegated lawmaking authority, and constituted arbitrary and unreasonable state action. The district court dismissed the equal protection, unlawful delegation, and arbitrary and unreasonable state action claims and granted declaratory and injunctive relief against the enforcement of the two contested provisions of H.B. 2. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the equal protection, unlawful delegation, and arbitrary and unreasonable state action claims and partially reversed the injunctions because the plaintiffs failed to show that they placed a substantial burden in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.


A pre-enforcement facial challenge did not have res judicata effect as to an as-applied challenge to the requirement under Tex. Health Safety Code Ann. § 171.0031(a) that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, nor did the prior suit preclude a challenge to Tex. Health Safety Code Ann. § 245.010(a), which required abortion facilities to meet surgical center requirements. Claim preclusion prohibits “successive litigation of the very same claim,” but petitioners’ as-applied post-enforcement challenge and facial pre-enforcement challenge do not present the same claim. Changed circumstances showing that a constitutional harm is concrete may give rise to a new claim. As for the constitutionality of the provisions of the statute, the admitting privileges requirement violated the Fourteenth Amendment as there was no significant health-related problem that the requirement helped to cure, and the resulting closure of facilities placed an undue burden on abortion access. Likewise, the surgical center requirement was unconstitutional as the record showed that it was unnecessary and would reduce the number of available facilities in the state to seven or eight.

  • Advocates: Stephanie Toti for the petitioners Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. Solicitor General, for the United States as amicus curiae, for the petitioners Scott A. Keller for the respondents
  • Petitioner: Whole Woman’s Health, et al.
  • Respondent: John Hellerstedt, Commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services, et al.
  • DECIDED BY:Roberts Court
  • Location: Texas State Capitol
Citation: 579 US _ (2016)
Granted: Nov 13, 2015
Argued: Mar 2, 2016
Decided: Jun 27, 2016
Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt Case Brief