WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case out of Texas involving regulations that some believe will result in the closure of most abortion facilities in the state.
As previously reported, in 2013, following the passage of several safety regulations for abortion facilities, Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against Texas officials, asserting that the new requirements would have an adverse affect on most facilities.
A federal judge appointed by then-President George H.W. Bush soon placed an injunction on portions of the new law, including the requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility, and that facilities be held to the same standards as surgical facilities. District Judge Lee Yeakel declared the regulations an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to have an abortion.
But as then-Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the injunction to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the three-judge panel disagreed with Yeakel that the admitting privileges requirement served no purpose. It stated that although the law would make it more difficult for women to obtain an abortion, the consequence was merely an “incidental effect,” and was “not designed to strike at the right [to abortion] itself.”
The matter was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which placed a stay on the regulations, holding them until the Fifth Circuit was able to rule on the merits of the law in light of the U.S. Constitution.
The circuit’s three-judge panel issued its final ruling on June 9, declaring that the regulations withstand constitutional scrutiny because they serve a valid purpose in protecting women’s health and do not burden a “large fraction” of Texas residents.
Abortion advocates then appealed the ruling back to the Supreme Court, which decided to once again place a stay on the regulations until it decides whether or not to take the case.
“Texas is the second-most-populous state in the nation—home to 5.4 million women of reproductive age,” reads the petition filed by several abortion facilities, including Whole Woman’s Health, Austin Women’s Health Center and Killeen Women’s Health Center. “More than 60,000 of those women choose to have an abortion each year.”
There were 42 abortion facilities in Texas prior to the passage of the law, and 19 currently remain open. Opponents of the regulations state that the number would shrink to 10 should all the facets of the law be upheld.
On Friday, the court announced that it had agreed to hear the case. Oral argument is expected next April and a ruling should be issued in late June.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a statement following the decision, asserting that the regulations are necessary in order to protect women’s health.
“The common-sense measures Texas has put in place elevate the standard of care and protect the health of Texas women. The state has wide discretion to pass laws ensuring Texas women are not subject to substandard conditions at abortion facilities,” he said.
“The advancement of the abortion industry’s bottom line shouldn’t take precedence over women’s health, and we look forward to demonstrating the validity of these important health and safety requirements in court,” Paxton added.
Some believe that the abortion industry should be outlawed altogether instead of being regulated.