October 7, 2014 — Texas abortion clinics on Monday filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction against a provision of a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) that has left many women in the state hundreds of miles away from the nearest abortion provider, Politico reports.
If the request is approved, Texas abortion facilities that had been forced to close under the measure would be allowed to remain open as the court case proceeds (Haberkorn, Politico, 10/6).
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday lifted a hold on a provision of HB 2, originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
Thirteen clinics were forced to close immediately to comply with the ruling, and there are no abortion clinics currently open to the west or south of San Antonio. All of the remaining providers are in Austin, Houston and two additional metropolitan areas (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/3).
Emergency Application Details
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the emergency appeal on behalf of clinics forced to close under the provision.
According to the New York Times, the injunction argues that the ambulatory surgical center provision imposed an unconstitutional "undue burden" on women's abortion rights. Further, the injunction contends that the provision does not serve a medical purpose and has resulted in nearly one million Texas women of reproductive age being more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion facility (Eckholm, New York Times, 10/6).
Specifically, the request states, "Many women's constitutional rights will be extinguished before the appellate process runs its course, and their lives will be permanently and profoundly altered by the denial of abortion services" (Herskovitz, Reuters, 10/6).
Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "Women's constitutional rights and access to safe, legal abortion care have been dealt a devastating blow. We look now to the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately reinstate the injunction, allow the clinics to reopen and put an end to the irreparable and unjustifiable harm to Texas women that is happening right now."
Potential for Injunction Approval, SCOTUS Hearing of Abortion Cases
According to Politico, it is not clear whether the Supreme Court will grant the request, or whether it would hear the full case if it were to be appealed to the high court.
However, if the high court were to consider the Texas law or one of several similar restrictions in other states, it would "mark the most significant Supreme Court" ruling on abortion since 2007, when it ruled on certain abortions performed later in pregnancy, Politico reports. According to Politico, such a ruling could "draw the line" between states' authority to regulate abortion and their responsibility to maintain access to the procedure.
Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom project, said the issue of state abortion restrictions "is crying out for Supreme Court resolution." She added that such restrictions have "mean[t] that for many, many women, the constitutional right to an abortion is just not a right anymore" (Politico, 10/6).