This week, the nation's highest court will weigh in on abortion case Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt. The clinics involved in the case argue that a Texas law limits access to abortion by requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and requiring clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers.
The state, however, says the law is meant to protect women who undergo the procedure.
But whether the court will issue a definitive decision is questionable. The justices have shied away from making bold decisions in a number of controversial cases since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.
The court last week voted 4-4 on a case involving President Barack Obama's plan to protect many undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the U.S. The tie, which left in place a lower court's decision against the plan, killed the president's immigration directive.
In May, the court punted back to lower courts cases dealing with how religious not-for-profits must respond to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that they offer employees birth control coverage.
Robin Fretwell Wilson, director of the family law and policy program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, doesn't expect a straightforward decision in the Texas case. The justices could just uphold some parts of the lower court's ruling or send the case back to the lower court with instructions, among other options. If the court were to rule 4-4 in the case, the lower court's ruling that upheld the Texas law would stand.
Fretwell Wilson said this case and other legal disputes over abortion have re-opened questions about accessibility and payment for abortion services.
“I think all these questions are up for grabs in a way they haven't been for years,” she said.