Texas’ clinic shutdown law threatens abortion access for millions of women, defies decades of Supreme Court rulings
(PRESS RELEASE) On the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade–the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision recognizing a woman’s constitutional right to abortion–the Center for Reproductive Rights is calling on the court to overturn two provisions of a Texas sham law designed to cut off access to that right for millions of women by closing more than 75 percent of the state’s abortion clinics.
The provisions in the Texas law known as HB2 have been condemned by the federal government and medical experts like the American Medical Association, as well as prominent legal scholars, business and faith leaders, and legislators from both sides of the aisle. Hundreds of women have also come forward to share their personal stories about the importance of access to this essential right, through a groundbreaking series of amicus briefs as well as the recent release of seven Hollywood actresses performing women’s abortion stories as part of the Center’s Draw The Line campaign.
HB2 has already shuttered half of the abortion providers in Texas, and is poised to leave the nation’s second-largest state with 10 or fewer clinics. After intervening twice to keep the Texas clinics open, the Supreme Court agreed in November to review the law. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 2, 2016.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights: “In the 43 years since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion care.
“Yet in Texas, and all across America, politicians defy the Supreme Court and the Constitution by peddling sham laws that force responsible providers to close their doors and leave women with nowhere to turn for the care they need.
“At a time when more and more women are stepping up to tell personal stories of how important access to this right has been to their lives and health, the urgency of protecting the legacy of Roe for future generations has never been more clear.
“We are calling on the court to reject these blatant attempts to turn back the clock on women’s rights, and ensure that the essential protections of Roe remain available to all women.”
Case History: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
Following a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive rights on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health and several other Texas health care providers in April 2014, a federal district court blocked the ambulatory surgical center requirement and the admitting-privileges requirement.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed that decision in large part on October 2, 2014, allowing the requirements to immediately take effect. Because forcing hospital-style surgery center building and staffing requirements on every clinic would amount to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services, all but 7 reproductive health care facilities in the state were prevented from offering safe and legal abortion services for 12 days. On October 14, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the injunction in large part, allowing many of the previously closed clinics to reopen their doors while the state’s appeal moved forward.
On June 9, 2015, the Fifth Circuit’s final decision in the appeal once again upheld the state restrictions in substantial part, this time threatening to shutter all but 10 abortion providers in the state. Once again, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to block the Fifth Circuit’s decision and allow the clinics to remain open while the legal challenge continued.
The Texas health care providers asked the U.S Supreme Court to review the case in September 2015, a diverse group of medical and public health organizations, state attorneys general, and leading legal scholars urged the U.S. Supreme Court to accept the case a month later. On November 13, 2015, the nation’s highest court agreed to review Texas’ clinic shutdown law.