The amicus briefs are being filed in the HB2 case.
The Obama administration on Monday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a Texas abortion law that has shuttered nearly half the clinics in the state, saying the Republican-backed regulations would harm rather than protect women’s health.
If allowed to take full effect, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote, the law would close many more of the state’s clinics and force hundreds of thousands of Texas women to travel great distances if they seek to terminate pregnancies.
“Those requirements are unnecessary to protect – indeed, would harm – women’s health, and they would result in closure of three quarters of the abortion clinics in the state,” Verrilli wrote.
The Obama administration did not fully embrace the clinic challengers’ position, however.
The clinics that sued Texas, represented by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), say judges trying to determine whether a regulation unconstitutionally burdens a woman’s right to abortion should look at legislators’ purpose or motives.
In this case, CRR lawyers said, the state’s assertions of health concerns “are nothing more than a pretext for restricting access to abortion.”
Administration lawyers emphasized a judicial review tied to the effects of a law. That more nuanced stance might have been crafted to appeal to pivotal justice Anthony Kennedy, who in past cases has backed a fundamental right to abortion but has broken from his abortion-rights colleagues to endorse certain regulations.
Obama administration lawyers said the law’s requirements that clinics have hospital-grade facilities and clinic doctors obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital were unnecessary because abortions provided in Texas are safe and have produced a low rate of complications.
The hearing will take place on March 2. As the Trib reports, there have been 45 briefs filed so far in opposition to HB2. Many of them are aimed at Justice Anthony Kennedy since he is
our supreme lord and master seen as the lone swing vote on this issue. That Presidential election later this year is looking pretty big, huh? The Chron, Think Progress, Daily Kos, and Newsdesk have more.
Of course, even a favorable outcome in this case won’t make abortion that much more accessible in Texas. The 2015 Legislature continued its assault on reproductive freedom, and as usual those who have the least ability to cope will bear the brunt of it.
Minors needing an abortion in Texas without parental consent have a new web of rules to navigate in 2016.
The Texas Supreme Court issued the rules in late December to implementHB 3994, the state’s newly passed judicial bypass law that governs the process for abused and neglected minors to obtain court approval to consent to an abortion.
The rules took effect January 1, imposing extensive restrictions for those minors seeking a judicial bypass for an abortion. Advocates claim such restrictions are unconstitutional.
“Judicial bypass protects vulnerable pregnant teens who cannot find or safely turn to a parent,” Tina Hester, executive director of Jane’s Due Process, a nonprofit advocacy organization serving minors in need of reproductive health care, said in a statement following the release of the rules. “But the legislature and Governor Abbott decided to go after abused and neglected pregnant teens by amending this law.”
One of the most significant changes made to the judicial bypass process by HB 3994 is to remove the enforcement deadlines for the judge to rule on a minor’s request for an abortion. Advocates claim this provision effectively allows a judge to stall out a minor until they can no longer obtain a legal abortion.
“When a minor cannot even get a hearing or a court ruling in time, the state is then making her decision for her,” Susan Hays, legal counsel and a founding mother of Jane’s Due Process, said in a statement. “Such abuse of state power amounts to an ‘absolute veto’ of her decision and is under U.S. Supreme Court precedent unconstitutional.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the late 1970s that to be constitutional, a judicial bypass process must be anonymous, expeditious, and provide an effective opportunity for a minor to obtain an abortion. The new Texas requirements violate these requirements in a number of ways, advocates claim.
First, HB 3994 extends the time for a judge to rule on a minor’s request for a judicial bypass from two business days to five and declares a case denied if the judge does not rule within those five days. Advocates contend this requirement could have the harmful effect of pushing a minor into a more expensive procedure or past the legal limit for abortion, especially considering long clinic wait times since the passage of HB 2, Texas’ clinic-closure law.
The law requires minors to provide the judge considering the bypass their name, home address, and phone number, therefore erasing patient anonymity and confidentiality. HB 3994 also requires most minors to file their request for a bypass in their home county if its population is more than 10,000, including in cases of rape.
“How heartless for the law to have no exception for a rape survivor fearful of seeing her rapist at the courthouse,” Hays said.
Minors often pursue a judicial bypass for an abortion when parents are abusive, missing, deported, incarcerated, deceased, or drug dependent, according to advocates.
Advocates claim that many Texas courthouses are unwilling to assist minors in applying for bypass. A 2015 Jane’s Due Process survey of more than 80 Texas counties found that 81 percent of counties did not have immediate knowledge of the judicial bypass process and 37 percent of the counties denied entirely a teenager’s ability to file for a bypass.
The refusal rate was 58 percent in counties with fewer than 50,000 people.
See here, here, and here for the background. That’s our Legislature for you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Nothing will change until some people start losing elections over this stuff. I’m not holding my breath for that, but in the meantime it sure sounds like there will be more litigation in our future. The Trib, the Press, the Observer, the Chron, and Newsdesk have more.