October 16, 2014 — Several Texas abortion facilities have resumed offering abortion services after a Supreme Court order stayed parts of a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2), but other clinics might face delays or stay closed amid uncertainty over the law, the AP/U-T San Diego reports (Weber, AP/U-T San Diego, 10/15).
The Supreme Court order on Tuesday reversed rulings by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, placing a hold on a provision that requires abortion clinics in Texas to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers and exempting abortion facilities in El Paso and McAllen from a provision that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
The 5th Circuit's ruling had lifted a previous hold on the ambulatory surgical centers provision, which was originally scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1. The ruling resulted in the immediate closure of 13 clinics (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/15).
The 5th Circuit is expected to rule on the merits of the ambulatory surgical centers provision. The federal court has ordered the state and the abortion facilities that are challenging the requirement to file briefs in the case by Dec. 8 (Eckholm, New York Times, 10/15). Meanwhile, the plaintiffs could appeal the 5th Circuit's ruling on the admitting privileges provision to the Supreme Court (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/15).
Some Facilities Reopening Soon, Others Still Face Challenges
The high court's order allowed the Texas facilities to reopen and resume services while court challenges continue.
Routh Street Women's Clinic in Dallas, which had stopped performing abortions about two weeks ago, began to schedule appointments following the high court's decision.
Clinic owner Virginia Braun said that the facility already had appointments scheduled for Thursday. She added that the clinic would have had to shut down permanently in a few weeks if it had not been allowed to resume offering abortions amid mounting bills (Eckholm, New York Times, 10/15).
According to the AP/U-T San Diego, the facility has lost several staff members, going from 17 employees to fewer than 10. Braun said of the former employees, "Some of them will come back, and some of them probably [won't]. As one person eloquently put it this morning, whiplash is no longer a sustainable life choice for her."
Meanwhile, Whole Woman's Health Founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said WWH's McAllen facility -- the only abortion clinic within 300 miles for some Texas women -- will resume offering abortions on Friday. However, she said that its facilities in Austin and Fort Worth would not immediately open because of financial and staffing concerns, and that it would be even more difficult to reopen its clinic in Beaumont.
Hagstrom Miller said that WWH had to lay off more than 50 employees over the past year, and that the turbulent legal situation over HB 2 had resulted in the organization taking on about $500,000 in debt in the past six months.
Meanwhile, Hilltop Women's Reproductive Services in El Paso -- the only abortion facility in West Texas -- will reopen in about a week to 10 days because of clinic renovations, according to the AP/U-T San Diego (AP/U-T San Diego, 10/15).
NYT Editorial: Supreme Court Order 'An Interim Step Toward Sanity'
"While the legal battle over [HB 2's] provisions continues, and is very likely to land back at the court before long, the [Supreme Court's] order" staying parts of the law "was a significant victory for women in Texas," a New York Times editorial states.
While the order "does not necessarily foretell how the court would rule on the merits," the Times states, "it provided hope, at least, that a majority of justices recognize the radical impact of the Texas law."
The Times states, "The Supreme Court's move was just an interim step toward sanity. This fight is far from over" (New York Times, 10/15).