Reevaluating Planned Parenthood v. Abbott

Author: Colin P. Pool*

The Fifth Circuit’s March 2014 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott[1] garnered attention[2] due to the controversial legislation that it upheld as constitutional: Texas H.B. 2, which in part required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital located within thirty miles of their clinic.[3] Critics have argued that this requirement is a legislative charade intended to force abortion providers to close,[4] continuing a broader debate regarding the constitutionality of abortion regulations.[5] This article reevaluates Abbott’s use of rational basis review in scrutinizing H.B. 2 by comparing it to the Fifth Circuit’s March 2013 decision in St. Joseph Abbey v. Castille,[6] where the court used the heightened “rational basis with bite” test to find a Louisiana funeral industry regulation unconstitutional.[7] In light of this comparison, Abbott’s rational basis analysis demonstrates a judicial double standard, and likely manifests the court’s political agenda.[8]

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