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Health & Science

Texas Abortion Clinics Appeal To US Supreme Court

The fight over a controversial Texas abortion law is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court will decide whether to hear the case later this fall.



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The fight over a controversial Texas abortion law is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Plaintiffs, including owners of abortion clinics, have asked the highest court to review the law's constitutionality and overturn the appellate level decision to uphold the law.

The 2013 law required all Texas clinics that provide abortion to meet the standards of outpatient surgery centers, and for the doctors there to obtain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Parts of the law have been put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court pending a final decision.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is representing abortion clinics in Texas that say they can't afford the expensive upgrades required under the law, and would be forced to shut down. If the law is enforced, ten or fewer clinics would be left in the entire state, all clustered in the major cities.

"It's time for the Supreme Court to step in," said Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. The Center is fighting similar clinic regulations in Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

"Although we are, by and large, winning these cases, women shouldn't have to go to court again and again and again," Northrup said.

Amy Hagstrom Miller used to operate five women's clinics offering abortion in Texas. Two have already closed, in Austin and Beaumont.

"These restrictions have nothing to do with protecting women, and everything to do with closing down clinics and pushing abortion out of reach," Miller said.

If the law is upheld, Miler will have to close her clinics in Fort Worth and McAllen. The McAllen clinic is the only one left along the southern Texas border, and women there would be forced to drive 240 miles to San Antonio for an abortion.

The plaintiffs, including Miller, have argued in court that the clinic closures and growing travel distances place an "undue burden" on a woman's constitutional right to safe, legal abortion.

"Can she get the time off work? Can she afford to travel up to 300 miles? Can she get daycare for her children? Can she find a place to stay overnight? Because, remember, she must see the same doctor two times for a five-to ten-minute procedure and four times just to swallow a pill," Miller said.

The multiple visits for surgical and medical (pill) abortion are mandated by an earlier law, passed in 2011, that instituted waiting periods and a mandatory vaginal ultrasound for women seeking abortions.

Texas lawmakers and anti-abortion groups claim the purpose of the 2013 law is to make abortion even safer, by requiring abortions to take place in the ambulatory surgery centers instead of regular medical clinics.

The state has at least a month to file a response with the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We will continue to defend the law to protect the health and safety of women and ensure abortion clinics in Texas meet basic standards," said Cynthia Meyer, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The famous abortion ruling Roe v. Wade also began in Texas.

The Supreme Court justices will hold a conference to decide whether to take the case, and an announcement is expected later this fall. If they decline to hear the case, the Texas law will go fully in to effect.