Week ahead: High-stakes abortion case heads to Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court will hear a case that could determine the fate of state abortion laws, even as the Senate fight over the high court’s future intensifies.

The court’s eight justices will hear oral arguments Wednesday in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, the high-stakes challenge of Texas’s anti-abortion law.

It’s a potentially landmark case — the court’s first chance to weigh in on a major abortion law in nine years. It’s also happening the day after Super Tuesday in an already unpredictable election year.


If the Supreme Court upholds the Texas law, it could bolster similar laws in dozens of other states that have cracked down on abortion in recent years. Many of those laws are currently being challenged in the courts.

Opponents of Texas’s 2013 law argue that it violates the court’s previous decision, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that a state cannot place an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions.

The Texas law creates new requirements for abortion doctors and clinics and has already forced dozens of clinics to close — an outcome that a lower court said “[fails] to advance the State’s interest in promoting health.”

At the same time as those oral arguments, the House’s special committee investigating Planned Parenthood will hold its first hearing.

The hearing, led by Chairwoman Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnWeek ahead: High-stakes abortion case heads to Supreme Court Democrats protest subpoenas in Planned Parenthood investigation McConnell: No regrets over relying on Planned Parenthood videos MORE (R-Tenn.), will feature several medical ethicists discussing fetal tissue donation, which has been at the center of the Planned Parenthood controversy. The group has repeatedly been accused of profiting from its fetal tissue donation program, though the claims are unproven.

On a less politically toxic note, the Senate is also expected to take up a bipartisan bill on fighting the opioid epidemic.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed the Judiciary Committee on a voice vote. It would direct funds appropriated in December’s omnibus spending bill to a range of education and prevention programs, as well as for increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug to treat overdoses.

Still, there’s a chance for some partisan battling as Democrats are pushing for $600 million in emergency appropriations to fight opioid abuse to be added to the bill.

Federal health officials will also get another chance to testify on the growing threat of the Zika virus next week.

The hearing, held by the oversight panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will take place just a few days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced at least 21 women are confirmed or are being tested for the Zika virus.

A total of eight witnesses, most from the government, are expected to testify. Expect questions on abortions — the CDC also announced Friday that two U.S. women opted to abort their pregnancies after becoming infected with Zika.

Recent stories:

Drug industry on edge for Obama action on prices http://bit.ly/210fnoO

CDC: Two US women with Zika opt for abortions http://bit.ly/1QCcwwo

Senate leader tees up drug abuse bill http://bit.ly/1oKYBP1

Feds crack down on ObamaCare deadlines after insurer uproar http://bit.ly/1S25k22

Senate GOP chairman vows to block HHS nominee http://bit.ly/21xE5Ps

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