The U.S. Supreme Court today took up one of the most important abortion cases in decades, the first high-profile issue to be heard since Antonin Scalia’s death left the court with eight justices.
“The most momentous abortion case in a quarter century is thrown into turmoil by the prospect that the court won’t be able to give an answer because it will end in a tie,” says Tom Goldstein, publisher of the SCOTUSblog website and a lawyer who appears before the Supreme Court.
Abortion clinics and doctors are challenging a Texas law that could force more than three-quarters of the state’s clinics to shut down.
Passed in 2013, it imposes two requirements. Clinics providing abortion services must meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. And doctors providing abortion services must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Related: Analysis: Which Justice Kennedy Will Rule on Abortion?
The court’s decision will affect similar laws in 12 other states. Some are now on hold because of court challenges. Just last week, a federal appeals court upheld a Louisiana law requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges.
“The Texas law is an absolute sham,” says Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights, whose lawyers will argue the case for the challengers.