United States supreme court has asked Texas if its plan to implement strict abortion limits has passed a key legal hurdle
United States supreme court is expected to allow Texas to impose strict abortion restrictions into effect
The US supreme court could rule this week on whether Texas’ strict abortion restrictions are constitutional, but for now the law will remain in effect.
If the court decides that the Texas legislation has passed a key legal hurdle, the court’s decision would be delivered within two weeks. However, the justices also have agreed to hear arguments in a similar case out of Wisconsin.
If the Texas law is upheld, it would not only affect abortion clinics in the state, but also the large number of Americans who self-define as anti-abortion. Legal experts agree that if the Texas law is upheld it would significantly reduce the number of clinics providing abortions in the state and could have a significant impact on the country’s abortion rights.
Supporters of the law, known as HB2, argue that it is needed to protect women’s health and save fetal lives. The law requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, which are specified under the same federal rules that all hospitals are required to meet for surgeries.
Texas has 20 abortion clinics left, down from 41 in 2013, according to state health department records.
John Branch, a judge on the San Antonio-based 10th US circuit court of appeals, did not immediately rule on the merits of the suit on Monday. He instead halted enforcement of the law while he reviewed arguments that it amounted to an unconstitutional burden on women.
In its order on Monday, the court gave Texas time to prepare for its appeal, which it said would be filed on Tuesday. Texas’s attorneys had urged the court to block the law, arguing that the appeals court panel had erred by dismissing the broader effect of the law on women’s access to abortion services.
The challenges to the Texas law are the only abortion cases argued by the justices this term.
A number of state measures restricting abortion are winding their way through the supreme court. In December the justices refused to block a Georgia law that requires women to visit a doctor before having an abortion. The case will be argued in the spring, during the period the court is expected to hear arguments in other constitutional challenges to the healthcare law, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Wisconsin v. Planned Parenthood.
Federal judges have rejected nearly all legal challenges to the Texas law, including those by abortion providers.
Stuart Ingle, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in an interview that the Texas law has made it hard for many women to travel to a clinic for an abortion and has resulted in a “tidal wave of clinic closures” in Texas.
“This is not about health, it’s not about saving fetal lives, it’s about enforcing legislation that is wholly political,” Ingle said.
A lawyer representing the law, Amanda Gonzalez, countered in an interview that it is part of a long line of laws requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. But before the clinics could move into the new buildings, she said, they had to meet the exact same safety standards as other medical facilities, a requirement she called “unconstitutional”.
“The last time the supreme court upheld a safety regulation this stringent was in 1987,” Gonzalez said. “This rule has been sitting on the books for two decades. Once again it’s been sitting there, undeclared and unbundled. It’s unacceptable.”
A companion rule that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic did not go into effect because no doctors were willing to provide admitting privileges to anti-abortion providers.