Abortion activists from Texas are asking the Supreme Court to strike down a pro-life Texas law credited with closing multiple abortion clinics and cutting abortions 13 percent, saving an estimated 9,900 babies from abortion.
The legislation, House Bill 2 (HB2), requires abortion facilities to meet the same safety standards of other Ambulatory Surgical Centers in the state, ensures that abortionists have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and bans painful late abortions on fully formed babies. The admitting privileges portion of the law was the portion responsible for closing abortion clinics and, because so many shut down or stopped doing abortions, Judge Lee Yeakel claimed that constituted an undue burden on women.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an appeal of Judge Yeakel’s ruling and the appellate court issued its decision. Abortion clinics appealed and asked the high court to block the law while the lower court considers the appeal and the high court granted that request.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court “erred by substituting its own judgment for that of the legislature” when ruling against the pro-life bill. It ruled that all abortion clinics have to follow the admitting privileges law except one.
Now, abortion activists are asking the Supreme Court to strike down the law:
The Texas law requires abortion clinics to employ doctors who have admitting privileges at local hospitals and to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Its challengers claim the restrictions are meant to limit abortions rather than improve health care and would force all but 10 clinics to close in a state where about 60,000 women seek abortions annually.
Before the law was passed, the state had more than 40 clinics. That number has dwindled to 18. By comparison, California has about 500 abortion clinics, and New York has about 250.
“The right at issue in this case is of exceptional importance, and the ultimate disposition of this case will have a profound effect on the lives of thousands of women and their families,” the abortion providers said in their petition.
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The state, backed by the appeals court, argued that traveling about 150 miles to obtain an abortion is not an undue burden. Women in west Texas who would not have a clinic even that close could travel into New Mexico, they said.
“Most women in Texas will not have to travel any further than they do right now in order to obtain abortions,” the state attorney general’s office argued successfully at the appeals court level.
Planned Parenthood did not challenge the law’s prohibition on abortions that take place at 20 weeks or later, a provision based on evidence that demonstrates the baby can feel pain at that stage. Pro-life Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed the omnibus HB 2 bill into law in July 2013.
Abbott criticized Yeakel in his motion to the appellate court, saying the district judge “failed even to mention (much less follow) precedent” from the appellate court and U.S. Supreme Court. Abbott asked for a response from the appeals court by Friday and he said he thinks it will overturn the judge’s decision.