Bench Memos

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More Misstatements of Ayotte’s Holding


This New York Times story on the Ayotte ruling is laughably off the mark. Its title mistakenly asserts “Justices Reaffirm Emergency Access to Abortion,” and its first sentence repeats the error: “the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision on Wednesday that reaffirmed the need to include an exception for medical emergencies in a law that restricts teenagers’ access to abortion.”

Let’s spell it out clearly:

1. Justice O’Connor’s unanimous opinion states in its first sentence that “We do not revisit our abortion precedents today.” That should be a rather clear clue that the Court was not reaffirming anything.

2. The opinion notes that “New Hampshire does not dispute, and our precedents hold, that a State may not restrict access to abortions that are ‘”necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for preservation of the life or health of the mother.”‘” (Citations omitted.) This again makes clear that the Court is not addressing this issue but is merely describing the backdrop for the remedial issue that it does address.

The ruling in Ayotte is in no way a victory for the pro-abortion side.


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