Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson Text Stats

The first abortion-related decision of the 2021 Supreme Court term, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, examined the following issue: The State of Texas adopted a law banning abortions at approximately six weeks of pregnancy, in clear violation of this Court’s precedents holding that a State cannot prohibit abortion at a point before viability. To try to insulate this unconstitutional prohibition from a federal challenge, the legislature crafted the law to prohibit government officials from directly enforcing it and instead delegated enforcement to the general public via civil actions that “any person” can file in Texas state court. Petitioners­ Texas abortion providers and individuals and organizations that support abortion patients-brought suit in federal court against, among others, the clerks and judges of the courts where enforcement actions can be brought and the Texas attorney general. The district court denied Respondents’ motions to dismiss on standing and sovereign-immunity grounds. Although Respondents’ appeal is pending in the Fifth Circuit, that Court has now issued an order that effectively forecloses Petitioners’ claims against the government officials.

The question before the Court was: whether a State can insulate from federal-court review a law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce that prohibition through civil actions.

The decision is available here. There were several opinions in the case including the plurality opinion and dissents from Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sotomayor. How do they compare from an analytics perspective? Here are text statistics from all three opinions.

First a look at the words in their opinions based on wordclouds that focused on the most frequent terms:

Gorsuch (Plurality)

Roberts (Dissent)

Sotomayor (Dissent)
Next a comparison of words statistics in the three opinions

Several things are evident from this comparison. First Gorsuch’s opinion is the longest, then Roberts’, and then Sotomayor’s. Based on the average grade level, Gorsuch’s opinion is the most is most advanced, then Sotomayor’s, with Roberts’ closely behind. Gorsuch’s sentences are longest on average followed by Roberts’, and then Sotomayor’s.

The opinions were both scored for writing quality using both BriefCatch and Grammarly. The scores were as follows:

The scores are all top-notch. The small increments between them show that the average quality scores ranked Gorsuch’s opinion the highest, followed by Roberts’, and Sotomayor’s.


Find Adam on Twitter: @AdamSFeldman

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