Health & Science

Supreme Court’s Intervention In Louisiana Gives Hope To Abortion Rights Supporters In Texas

Abortion clinics in both Texas and Louisiana have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for relief from medical regulations that could put them out of business.

Texans are still waiting to hear from the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark case that will determine whether state lawmakers went too far in regulating abortion clinics. But clinic supporters say they’re a little more hopeful after the Court intervened last Friday in a related case in Louisiana.

The question before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Texas case is whether to strike down a 2013 law which imposed strict new standards on abortion clinics and the doctors who work there.

The U.S. Supreme Court held a hearing on the Texas case last Wednesday, two days before intervening in the Louisiana case.  

“They’ve heard the oral argument,” said Peter Linzer, a constitutional law expert at the University of Houston.

“One of the major points was made (that) these clinics are being put out of business, and there are women that are more than 100 miles from an abortion clinic and may not have a car.”

Linzer said the Court won’t release the final decision in the Texas case until the end of this term, probably in June. But what the Justices did Friday in a similar Louisiana case could indicate which way they are leaning in Texas, Linzer explained.  

“I think this is major,” he said.

The Louisiana lawsuit challenged a 2014 state law similar to the law Texas passed a year earlier. It requires doctors at abortion clinics to get a hospital credential — a requirement that the state has called a safety standard, but major medical groups say is unnecessary and bureaucratic.

If upheld, the law could force three of Louisiana’s four abortion clinics to shut down.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court intervened and put the Louisiana law on temporary hold, so the clinics can stay open as the case proceeds.

National abortion rights groups trumpeted the move as a positive sign that a majority of the Justices may also be looking skeptically at the strict regulations required in Texas.

“It is an indication that they are going to reverse the Texas law,” Linzer said. He immediately added that there’s no predicting what the final outcome will be.  

But anti-abortion groups in Texas disagreed with Linzer’s analysis, saying it’s too early to draw any inferences from the Court’s intervention in Louisiana.

All the Supreme Court was doing was being consistent, said Emily Horne, a legislative associate with Texas Right to Life. She pointed out that the Supreme Court also granted Texas clinics a temporary reprieve last year, allowing them to stay open while their lawyers filed an appeal.

A temporary hold on Louisiana’s law is “not indicative of the law’s merits but a measure by the Court to give the law a chance at legal review prior to taking effect,” Horne wrote in a statement.

In the end, what the eight remaining Justices think about the Texas case is still a secret, and the final ruling depends on the swing vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Horne said officials at Texas Right to Life remain “optimistic” that the Texas law will be upheld, given the kind of questions Kennedy was asking during the oral arguments on March 2.

 

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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