The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed Texas abortion providers a major victory by overturning Texas’ 2013 abortion restrictions.
On a 5-3 vote, the high court overturned restrictions passed as part of House Bill 2 in 2013 that required all Texas facilities that perform abortions to meet hospital-like standards — which include minimum sizes for rooms and doorways, pipelines for anesthesia and other infrastructure. The court also struck down a separate provision, which had already gone into effect, that requires doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic.
This means Texas’ 19 remaining clinics — of the more than 40 that were open before HB 2 passed — will continue to provide abortions. Had the court upheld the hospital-like standard requirement, Texas would have been left Texas with as few as 10 abortion clinics — all in major metropolitan areas.
In a majority opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court indicated that the facility requirement on abortion clinics does not “benefit patients and is not necessary.” In knocking down the admitting privileges requirement, the court said “sufficient evidence” existed to prove that requirement “led to the closure of half of Texas’ clinics, or thereabouts.”
“We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law (which required a “working arrangement” with a doctor with admitting privileges), the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health,” Breyer wrote.
Here’s the opinion; there’s a brief but vital concurrence by Justice Ginsburg beginning on page 40. I’m just going to link to a bunch of stories about and reactions to this ruling, as I’m a bit too numb to offer anything of substance myself. The one thing I will say is that this in no way will diminish the appetite that the forced birth lobby has for finding new ways to imperil women’s health. There were going to be more bills restricting reproductive choice had HB2 been upheld, so you can bet your private parts there will be more such bills now that HB2 has been thrown out.
“I would expect an absolute onslaught of pro-life legislation in the next session,” said state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford. “I’ve never been this upset before, I mean just like truly upset,” he said of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
With a Republican governor at the helm of the state’s government and large Republican majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, new anti-abortion laws would very likely have enough popular support to pass when lawmakers meet again in 2017. The question now facing conservative Texas politicians is how to craft new abortion restrictions that would survive further legal challenges — and whether there is enough urgency for lawmakers to convene an immediate, emergency session to try to pass a new law.
A spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott, who can order state lawmakers to meet in a special legislative session to consider new laws, did not respond to a reporter’s question about whether the governor would do so.
But in the hours immediately following the Supreme Court’s ruling, dozens of state lawmakers began hinting at a new front in the state’s long-running battle over abortion rights, though they offered few specifics about what further anti-abortion laws might look like.
And while this ruling keeps open the clinics that would have closed, it can’t undo the damage of the clinics that had already been forced to close, most of which will never reopen. I hate being Debbie Downer, but there is no end to this, not in Texas and not elsewhere. Celebrate the victory, then get back to work. For way more discussion on this, see any or all of the following:
ThinkProgress times three
The Austin Chronicle