June 15, 2015 — A Washington Post editorial and opinion pieces from the Los Angeles Times and The Week examine the recent 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision upholding parts of an omnibus antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) and urge the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. Summaries of the pieces appear below.
~ Carla Hall, Los Angeles Times: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to uphold "an onerous [Texas] law requirement that abortion clinics be outfitted to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers," after already upholding another provision requiring doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, "will leave, at most, seven or eight clinics open in the entire state," down from the 41 that were in operation before the law was enacted, Hall, a reporter, writes. Hall notes, "There is absolutely no medical or health reason for doctors to have admitting privileges or for abortion clinics to be outfitted like hospitals, according to doctors, medical groups, women's healthcare advocates and the federal judges who have thrown out these unnecessary provisions through the years in various states." Rather, this legislation "is just about (unconstitutionally) making it difficult to get an abortion," she writes, noting that while clinics might remain open in "big urban areas," low-income women in rural parts of the state will have "to make a difficult journey of 200 miles or more in some cases to get to the few remaining clinics" (Hall, Los Angeles Times, 6/11).
~ Washington Post: A Post editorial calls on the Supreme Court to strike down the 5th Circuit decision, noting that if it "stands, states will be able to all but deny access to abortion on a phony pretext of concern for women's health." According to the Post, the 5th Circuit in its ruling opted "to respect Texas's fig-leaf justifications for a policy that is obviously designed to limit access to abortion, not to protect women's health." Further, the appeals court "put ideological preference ahead of constitutional dictates" when it determined that the law -- which would leave "nearly a million women ... farther than 150 miles from the nearest clinic" -- did not place a sufficiently "'substantial obstacle'" on women's access to the procedure, the editorial states. The editorial concludes, "Reasonable safety standards on medical procedures are warranted. Giving legal legitimacy to Texas's assault on abortion rights is not" (Washington Post, 6/11).
~ San Francisco Chronicle: "Abortion rights suffered a big setback [last] week when a federal appeals court upheld a Texas law that was designed to force the closure of abortion clinics," a Chronicle editorial states. According to the editorial, the state's existing abortion restrictions already have increased the number of Texas women going to Louisiana to access abortion care, and the latest ruling could close "10 of the state's 17 abortion clinics." However, the editorial notes that while "Texas politicians [might] have decided that restricting abortion is a winning issue for them ... the danger is that the Supreme Court will agree with them." The editorial states, "There are no guarantees that the justices will strike down these laws" in Texas or other states "that are designed specifically to prevent women from making their own health care choices" (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/11).
~ Rick Jervis, USA Today: While the 5th Circuit ruling, "if upheld, could shrink the number of Texas clinics ... to just seven in the nation's second-largest state," it could also have a "silver lining" if reviewed and overturned by the Supreme Court, Jervis writes. He explains that, according to abortion-rights advocates, a "Supreme Court hearing could lead to one of the most sweeping national rulings on abortion since Roe v. Wade ... and could roll back similar laws in states across the [U.S.]." Jervis acknowledges that such a ruling is "a big if," but he cites Elizabeth Nash -- senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute -- noting that "the potential is certainly there" given that "[m]ore than 30 states currently have laws similar to Texas', including rules requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and for clinics to meet ambulatory surgical centers standards" (Jervis, USA Today, 6/14).
~ Paul Waldman, The Week: "Depending on how" the Supreme Court might rule on the 5th Circuit ruling -- if the high court opts to review the case -- "we may find ourselves considerably farther down a road we're already traveling on reproductive rights: one in which we have two countries ... one where abortion is legal and one where it's technically legal, but all but impossible to obtain," Waldman writes. Waldman focuses on the Texas law's admitting privileges requirement, explaining how patients of physicians with or without such privileges would receive "pretty much exactly" the same hospital care, if ever needed. He contends that rather than helping women, this requirement has been used to put all but 18 of the state's 41 clinics out of business. He adds, "There are already four states with only a single clinic that performs abortions, and if the Supreme Court takes this case and rules the way conservatives hope, before you know it there will be many more" (Waldman, The Week, 6/11).