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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
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High Court Takes Up Texas Abortion Rules

WASHINGTON (CN) - A law that would reduce the number of abortion providers in Texas to roughly seven will face Supreme Court review, the justices said Friday.

The grant of certiorari comes five months after the Fifth Circuit upheld most of a Texas law that specifies abortions must be performed in hospital-style surgical centers and can only be performed by doctors with admitting privileges to hospitals within 30 miles.

Because the Supreme Court later blocked Texas from implementing the law pending its review, however, 13 clinics that do not meet the standards were kept open.

Whole Woman's Health led the legal challenge to the law, which are among the most restrictive in the nation.

In overturning the trial court's injunction, the Fifth Circuit had cited an expert from the state who testified that abortions should be performed in ambulatory surgical centers "because surgical abortion involves invasive entry into the uterus, which is sterile."

"Texas' stated purpose for enacting H.B.2 was to provide the highest quality care to women seeking abortions and to protect the health and welfare of women seeking abortions," the ruling states. "There is no question that this is a legitimate purpose that supports regulating physicians and the facilities in which they perform abortions."

Per its custom, the U.S. Supreme Court did not issue any comment in taking up the case Friday.

While the Center for Reproductive Rights is leading the challenge in Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood are counsel in Alabama and Wisconsin cases that also challenge the admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical requirements.

Noting that leading medical groups oppose both of the requirements at issue in the Texas law, the ACLU noted today that the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist each filed briefs with the Supreme Court stating that laws are unnecessary and put women's health at risk.

"When the leading medical groups like the AMA oppose these laws, you have to ask yourself what they are really about," Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. "They're about shutting down clinics and attempting to prevent a woman who has decided to have an abortion from getting one."

Emphasizing that "medical evidence matters," Dalven added that "the Constitution doesn't allow states to rely on sham justifications for shutting down clinics in an effort to stop women from getting abortions."

Terri Burke, the executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said the law represents the effort by "extremists in the Texas legislature" to whittle away at the constitutional right women have to safe and legal abortion services.

"Medically unnecessary restrictions on health care providers like the ASC requirement advance politicians' ideological agenda, but at the expense of women's health," Burke said in a statement. "I'm hopeful that the Supreme Court will put the interests of Texan women over the political interests of Texas legislators and strike down this dangerous law before any more clinics close."

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