(PRESS RELEASE) In a 6-3 order, the U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated an injunction blocking a far-reaching Texas law that had forced all but seven reproductive health care clinics in the state to close their doors. Today’s ruling allows clinics previously shuttered to reopen their doors and offer abortion services while the case is heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The U.S. Supreme Court gave Texas women a tremendous victory today. Tomorrow, thirteen clinics across the state will be allowed to reopen and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities.
“This fight against Texas’ sham abortion law is not over. HB2 was designed to gut the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade and half of the state’s clinics remain closed. We will continue this legal battle until the rights of Texas women are restored.”
Today’s order from the U.S. Supreme Court is in response to reproductive health care providers’ emergency application filed on October 6. A panel of judges on the Fifth Circuit will now hear the case’s appeal.
The Fifth Circuit’s ruling on October 2 immediately allowed the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as hospital-style surgery centers to go into effect immediately—a provision that amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and has closed more than a dozen of the state’s remaining providers.
The ruling also stayed the district court’s injunction against the admitting privileges requirement as it applied to two of the state’s hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas.
This is the Center for Reproductive Rights’ second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer. The first suit—filed in September 2014—challenged the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. These provisions were ultimately upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and led to the closure of about 20 of the states more than 40 abortion clinics that existed before HB2 was passed last summer. The plaintiffs requested the full appeals court rehear the case, which the Fifth Circuit denied last week.
The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti, Esha Bhandari, and David Brown of the Center for Reproductive Rights, J. Alexander Lawrence of the law firm Morrison &, Foerster, and Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell of the law firm O’Connell &, Soifer.
Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2. Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposehospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with less than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital. ACOG also opposes the imposition of medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers.
Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services. Elected officials in two Texas cities—Austin and Houston—have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act.