Supreme Court Blocks Texas Abortion Rules, Allowing Clinics To Stay Open | KERA News

Supreme Court Blocks Texas Abortion Rules, Allowing Clinics To Stay Open

Jun 29, 2015

The Supreme Court is refusing to allow Texas to enforce restrictions that would force 10 abortion clinics to close.

The justices voted 5-4 on Monday granting an emergency appeal from the clinics after a federal appeals court upheld new regulations and refused to keep them on hold while the clinics appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court order will remain in effect at least until the court decides whether to hear the clinics' appeal of the lower court ruling, not before the fall.

If the Supreme Court didn’t grant its emergency appeal, the Fort Worth branch of “Whole Woman’s Health” would have stopped abortions almost immediately. CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller says there was no way around it.

“We would have had to suspend abortion care services in Fort Worth right away here, this coming Wednesday," says Hagstrom Miller.

Another Whole Woman’s Health clinic in McAllen would have remained open, but significantly restricted, with only one doctor on staff allowed to perform abortions. Hagstrom Miller says Monday’s Supreme Court ruling changes everything.

“Calling my team in McAllen and my team in Fort Worth just now was so rewarding. To tell them that the clinics will stay open and the jobs they love so much, serving women, will be there for them next week and beyond," she says.

A 'dangerous law,' Planned Parenthood says

KERA's Lauren Silverman talked with Kelly Hart, the senior director of government relations for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas

"It makes me worry there are too many confused women in Texas who don’t know if they can get health care," Hart said. "They don’t know if abortion is legal, they don’t know where they can go, how far they might have to drive.”

"Obviously, we have to go to court, we have to fight for the constitutional rights of women to access health care, but unfortunately the process is a confusing one," Hart added. "But I’m so pleased that the Supreme Court has blocked this dangerous law."

"Planned Parenthood has health centers that are open today," Hart said. "They will be open tomorrow. They will be open as long as House Bill 2 is in effect. They’re in compliance with House Bill 2, so we have facilities and doctors that are here to see women." 

Abbott: HB 2 is about 'protecting our most vulnerable'

Governor Greg Abbott today issued the following statement on the Supreme Court’s ruling on HB 2:

“HB 2 was a constitutional exercise of Texas’ lawmaking authority that was correctly and unanimously upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas will continue to fight for higher-quality healthcare standards for women while protecting our most vulnerable – the unborn, and I’m confident the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold this law.”

NPR has more details.

'Millions of Texas women cannot simply wait'

Here's what The Texas Tribune is reporting: 

A federal appeals court on Friday rejected a request from Texas abortion providers to temporarily put on hold a ruling that could leave Texas with nine abortion facilities.

Abortion providers had asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to delay its own ruling upholding most provisions of House Bill 2 — including requiring nearly all of Texas’ abortion facilities that perform the procedure to meet hospital-like standards — while they take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Attorneys with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the lawsuit, said they will now turn to the U.S. Supreme Court and ask it to delay the law's implementation while they pursue their appeal.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the center, said it was "imperative" that the Supreme Court intervene in the case.

“No woman should be forced to cross state lines or travel hundreds of miles for essential health care," Northup said. "And millions of Texas women cannot simply wait for months as this legal battle continues, with severely restricted options for safe and legal abortion services in the state."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office is defending the abortion law in court, said the appellate court "rightly rejected" efforts to keep the abortion restrictions from taking effect.

“No woman should be subjected to substandard levels of care, and this ruling means abortion clinics and doctors must meet safe, common-sense standards if they choose to operate their businesses in Texas,” Paxton said.

Few Texas Clinics Meet Standards

In an opinion issued June 9, a three-judge panel of the appellate court ruled that the state's requirement that abortion clinics meet ambulatory surgical center standards — which include minimum sizes for rooms and doorways, pipelines for anesthesia and other infrastructure — was constitutional because it did not impose an undue burden on a "large fraction" of Texas women seeking abortions.

Only a handful of Texas abortion clinics — all in major metropolitan areas — meet those standards. As of last week, there were 19 abortion providers performing abortions in Texas. But the appellate court carved out an exception from most of the ambulatory surgical center standards for the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in McAllen.

Additionally, the appellate court granted one of the McAllen clinic’s doctors a reprieve from a separate provision of the law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic.

Immediately after the three-judge panel upheld the strict abortion restrictions, abortions providers vowed to take the lawsuit to the Supreme Court. The next day, the abortion providers’ lawyers asked the appellate court to keep their ruling from going into effect on July 1 while they appealed to the high court.

The abortion providers argued that the Supreme Court is likely to take up the case and there is a “significant possibility” the high court could reverse the appellate court’s ruling.

In their petition, they pointed to the Supreme Court’s previous intervention in the abortion lawsuit. It temporarily put on hold the ASC provision in October after the appeals court ruled it could go into effect as the lawsuit made its way through the appeals process. 

The abortion providers also argued that allowing the ruling to go into effect will cause “irreparable harm” because clinics forced to close after the 5th Circuit’s ruling are less likely to reopen even if the Supreme Court rules in the abortion providers’ favor. The closure of about half of the state’s remaining clinics could also increase the health risks Texas women seeking abortions will face, including increases in illegal and unsafe methods of abortion, the providers argued.

The Texas Tribune provided this story

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