Reproductive health care providers in Texas have asked the US Supreme Court to block enforcement of unnecessary, harmful abortion restrictions in Texas that have closed all but eight of the state’s abortion clinics overnight.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of the health care providers, filed an emergency application with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia after Thursday’s decision by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to allow the immediate enforcement of two provisions – the ambulatory surgical center and admitting privileges requirements – of the Texas omnibus anti-abortion law, HB 2.
Before the enactment of HB2, Texas had 44 abortion clinics. That number was cut to 21 after parts of HB 2 went into effect, and the Fifth Circuit’s decision shuttered 13 more. As of Friday, the Rio Grande valley has not one abortion provider, and nearly one million women of reproductive age must now travel 300 miles round-trip to access abortion care.
“There can be no question that just a handful of clinics left to offer safe, legal abortion care to all women across of vast state of Texas is a dire emergency in need of an immediate response,” said Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup. “Every hour that these clinics are closed adds to the number of women, many facing urgent circumstances, who will be denied essential care and their constitutional rights. Every day that passes increases the likelihood that these shuttered clinics will never be able to open again.”
“Texas politicians, led by Governor Rick Perry, have closed not only nearly 80 percent of the state’s women’s clinics offering abortion services, but they have also closed an additional 55 clinics that do not provide abortion but provide birth control services, early cancer screenings, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and other vital women’s health services,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. “This is a total reactionary war on women’s health services. Young women will die, will be injured and maimed, to further their narrow political interests and ambitions.”
Both the admitting privileges requirement and the requirement that abortion clinics meet the building code specifications of ambulatory surgical centers were struck down as unconstitutional by US District Court Judge Lee Yeakel in August. The Fifth Circuit ruling nullified Yeakel’s decision. The emergency application asks Justice Scalia, who oversees the Fifth Circuit, to block enforcement of these provisions pending a final outcome of the case. He may either decide the application himself or refer it to the entire Court.
Media Resources: Center for Reproductive Rights 10/6/14; Feminist Newswire 10/3/14, 9/2/14; US Supreme Court