Supreme Court Reprieve Lets 10 Texas Abortion Clinics Stay Open For Now | KERA News

Supreme Court Reprieve Lets 10 Texas Abortion Clinics Stay Open For Now

Jun 30, 2015
Originally published on July 1, 2015 2:42 pm

Tuesday would have been the last day of operation for 10 clinics in Texas that provide abortion services. But on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court, in one of its final actions of this session, said the clinics can remain open while clinic lawyers ask the court for a full review of a strict abortion law.

Two dozen states have passed regulations similar to the ones being fought over in Texas.

Two years ago, when Texas passed one of the toughest laws in the country regarding abortion services, the number of clinics offering the procedure dropped from 41 to 19.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive of Whole Woman's Health, already had to close two clinics in Texas because of the law and was about to close two more. "Honestly, I just can't stop smiling," Hagstrom Miller says. "It's been so much up and down, so much uncertainty for my team and the women that we serve."

The Texas law says doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. But some hospitals are reluctant to grant them because of religious reasons, or because abortion is so controversial.

The law also requires the clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers. Those upgrades can cost $1 million or more.

"It's an example of the rash of laws that have passed throughout the country the past couple of years that have taken a sneaky approach by enacting regulations that pretend to be about health and safety but are actually designed to close down clinics," says Nancy Northrup, chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing clinics in their fight to overturn the Texas law.

Supporters of the law say every woman deserves good medical care whatever the procedure.

"While we hope that she would not be compelled to choose abortion we hope that her life would of course not be at risk should she choose to do that," says Emily Horne of Texas Right to Life. "Pro-life does not just mean care for the life of the unborn child, it's care for the life of the woman undergoing the abortion as well."

The law has had a drastic effect in Texas, the country's second most populous state, leaving most of the remaining clinics in major cities.

There's just one clinic left along the Mexican border and one in far west El Paso. There were among the nine expected to shut down.

If they had closed, the women there faced round trips of 300 miles or more within Texas to get an abortion.

Hagstrom Miller says all these clinic rules and the doctor restrictions are a deliberate strategy waged by anti-abortion groups. "They're going state by state by state by state," she says. "They can't make it illegal so they're basically making it completely inaccessible."

Other states that have passed similar laws are also facing legal challenges.

Emily Horne, of Texas Right to Life, says her group would welcome a legal review by the Supreme Court. "With this case, issuing some more guidance on that could be very helpful for the pro-life movement in determining what courses to pursue, which laws they might pass in other states in the future," she says.

The clinics in Texas can stay open at least until the fall. If the court decides to take the case, it would hear arguments in its next term that starts in October.

This story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, Houston Public Media and Kaiser Health News.

Copyright 2017 KUHF-FM. To see more, visit KUHF-FM.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Today would have been the last day of operation for about half of the remaining clinics in Texas that provide abortions. That's because of tough regulations on clinics in a Texas law that's set to take effect tomorrow. But the U.S. Supreme Court has put that law on hold as the clinic's lawyers seek a review of the law. Carrie Feibel of Houston Public Media reports.

CARRIE FEIBEL, BYLINE: Two years ago, Texas passed one of the toughest laws in the country regarding abortion. The number of clinics offering the procedure dropped from 41 to 19. Another 10 were about to close until the Supreme Court intervened.

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: Honestly, I just can't stop smiling.

FEIBEL: Amy Hagstrom Miller is chief executive of Whole Woman's Health. She already had to close two clinics in Texas because of the law and was about to close two more.

MILLER: It's just been so much up and down over the last year-and-a-half, two years. You know, open-close and so much uncertainty for my team and really for the women that we serve.

FEIBEL: The Texas law says doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. But many hospitals are reluctant to grant privileges, either for religious reasons or because abortion is so controversial. The law also requires the clinics to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers. Those upgrades can cost a million dollars or more. Nancy Northrup is chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights. The center is representing clinics in their fight to overturn the Texas law.

NANCY NORTHRUP: It's an example of the rash of laws that have passed throughout the country in the last several years which have taken a sneaky approach by enacting regulations that pretend to be about health and safety but are actually designed to close down clinics.

FEIBEL: But supporters of the law deny that. They say every woman deserves good medical care whatever the procedure. Emily Horne is with Texas Right to Life.

EMILY HORNE: While we hope that she would not be compelled to choose abortion, we hope that her life would, of course, not be at risk should she choose to do that.

FEIBEL: Horne sees no contradiction between opposing abortion while also trying to make it safer.

HORNE: Pro-life does not just mean care for the life of the unborn child. It's care for the life of the woman undergoing the abortion as well.

FEIBEL: Whatever the intent of the law, it's had a drastic effect. Most of the remaining clinics are in the major Texas cities. There's just one left along the Mexican border and one in far west El Paso. They were among the 10 about to shut down. If they had closed, the women there faced round trips of 300 miles or more to get an abortion. Amy Hagstrom Miller says all the clinic rules and doctor restrictions are a deliberate strategy waged by antiabortion groups.

MILLER: They're going state-by-state-by-state.

FEIBEL: Other states have passed laws like the one in Texas, and other states have had to defend them in the courts.

MILLER: They can't make it illegal, but they're basically making it completely inaccessible.

FEIBEL: But Emily Horne of Texas Right to Life says her group would welcome a legal review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

HORNE: This case, issuing some more guidance on that, could be very helpful for the pro-life movement in determining what courses to pursue, which laws they might pass in other states in the future.

FEIBEL: The 10 clinics in Texas can stay open at least into the fall. If the court decides to take the case, it would hear arguments in its next term that starts in October. For NPR News, I'm Carrie Feibel in Houston.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: And that story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, Houston Public Media and Kaiser Health News. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, BYLINE: And I'm Linda Wertheimer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.