NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Abortion clinics that were forced to shut two weeks ago can reopen after a Tuesday evening Supreme Court ruling that partially blocks a Texas law that had reduced the state to just eight abortion clinics.
In a single-page document, the court stayed an October decision from the 5th Circuit that forced 13 abortion providers to close because their facilities did not meet surgical center requirements.
The Supreme Court also ruled that abortion providers in El Paso and McAllen can forgo the newly enacted requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
The Center for Reproductive Rights asked the Supreme Court last week to place a stay on the appeals court ruling, saying that if the 5th Circuit's decision "is not vacated, the clinics forced to remain closed during the appeals process will likely never reopen. Further, women's ability to exercise their constitutional right to obtain an abortion will be lost, and their lives will be permanently and profoundly altered."
The order is not a ruling on whether the Texas laws it blocks are constitutional; it simply allows clinics to continue to offer abortion services while the legal battle continues.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. would have allowed the abortion providers to remain shuttered while the new law is more closely examined.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were in favor of the stay.
The two-paragraph long, unsigned order doesn't explain why the majority disagreed with the 5th Circuit.
The 5th Circuit had ruled that challengers to the law did not meet their burden to show that the provisions in question will result in insufficient clinic capacity.
The 5th Circuit found that U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel did not have facts to support his Aug. 29 ruling that the two regulations in House Bill 2 created "an undue burden" on women seeking an abortion.
Texas House Bill 2, a package of anti-abortion legislation that was passed last summer, has been challenged twice now by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement that both the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for abortion doctors.
The Center said legal abortion in the United States is safe, with fewer than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.
The Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also opposes facility regulations that are more stringent than for other low-risk surgical procedures.
"Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471) - a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women's personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services. Elected officials in two Texas cities - Austin and Houston - have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women's Health Protection Act," said the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Last week a request from the Center for Reproductive rights for the issue to be heard by all 5th Circuit judges was denied. Arguments on the issue will be heard again by another panel of three judges.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.