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Just waiting on SCOTUS’ HB2 ruling

We’ll know by the end of the month, one way or the other.

Right there with them

Right there with them

In the next few weeks the U.S. Supreme Court, in one of the most significant reproductive rights cases in more than two decades, is expected to determine the future of abortion access in Texas and possibly for other states across the country. SCOTUS has until June to issue a ruling and a decision could come as early as this Thursday.

“We are optimistic that the justices will say once and for all politicians cannot use flimsy health justifications to impose regulations that place substantial obstacles in front of a woman seeking to end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group challenging Texas’ abortion-restrictive law, during a conference call Tuesday morning. “This is a watershed moment in the battle for reproductive rights. It’s an opportunity for the Supreme Court to protect the health and safety of women and put a stop to the onslaught of laws protecting safe and legal abortion.”

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt challenges two provisions of House Bill 2, the draconian 2013 package law pushed by anti-choice Texas legislators: a rule that forces physicians to secure admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic, and regulations that transform clinics into ambulatory surgical centers (ASC). The costly ASC rule has yet to take effect, but if upheld it’s expected to shutter all but as few as 10 clinics located in major metro areas. In Austin, only the Planned Parenthood ASC on Ben White Blvd. would survive. The other parts of HB 2 have led to an abortion care crisis – more than half of the states’ abortion clinics have closed, leaving 19 out of an initial 41 clinics.

Since oral arguments were held on March 2, health providers, patients, and advocates have waited anxiously for a SCOTUS ruling. While the state contends the rules are meant to protect the health and safety of women, attorneys on behalf of abortion care providers point to the devastating undue burden women in Texas face due to laws that fail medical justification, an argument bolstered by majormainstream medical groups. On a Tuesday morning conference call, attorneys challenging the law and a key plaintiff reiterated how much is at stake for Texas women.

“We have a situation in Texas where a right exists on paper but it’s out of reach for a tremendous amount of Texas women,” said lead plaintiff Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health clinics. “And we’ve seen a disproportionate effect on women of color, young women, and rural women.”

The Observer was on the same call.

Researchers at the University of Texas’ Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which tracks the impact of restrictions on abortion access, have found that HB 2 has forced Texans to wait longer for appointments, take on increased travel costs and obtain their abortions later into pregnancy.

Hagstrom Miller and her attorneys said they’re hopeful that the Supreme Court will ultimately strike down HB 2, even though conservative justices on the court seemed skeptical about the law’s effect on clinic closures during oral arguments earlier this year.

“We are optimistic that the Supreme Court will say once and for all that politicians can’t use flimsy justifications to impose regulations that create substantial obstacles” for women seeking abortions,” said Center for Reproductive Rights president Nancy Northup. “This is a watershed moment for reproductive rights.”

See here for the background. I wish I could be optimistic, but I feel too worn down by this fight to get out of my defensive crouch. I feel a 4-4 result coming, even if the remaining justices swear they don’t want to hand down tie votes. I sure hope I’m wrong.

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