Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Texas Abortion Limits Won’t Head to High Court

(CN) - Freeing Texas to enforce new restrictions on doctors who perform abortions, the U.S. Supreme Court split along party lines in rejecting a call to intervene.

Planned Parenthood had appealed to the high court on Nov. 4 in an effort to block a provision of Texas House Bill 2 that took effect in October.

H.B. 2 bans abortions after 20 weeks, requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, imposes a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved drug regimen for medication-induced abortions and requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards of ambulatory medical centers.

Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill into law this summer. The controversial legislation prompted an 11-hour filibuster by Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who last month declared her candidacy for Texas governor.

In their federal complaint, Planned Parenthood and several affiliated health clinics had claimed that the admitting privileges mandate and the medication abortion restriction place unconstitutional burdens on women seeking abortions.

Though U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel permanently enjoined enforcement of the admitting privileges provision in late October, the 5th Circuit quickly stayed that injunction pending appeal.

Yeakel's order had upheld the provision on medication-induced abortions.

Planned Parenthood petitioned U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in a 20-page emergency application to vacate the stay.

The application indicated that "in just the few short days since the injunction was lifted, over one-third of the facilities providing abortions in Texas have been forced to stop providing that care and others have been forced to drastically reduce the number of patients to whom they are able to provide care."

The Supreme Court rejected Planned Parenthood's request Tuesday, prompting a four-justice dissent signed by Justice Stephen Breyer.

"I would maintain the status quo while the lower courts consider this difficult, sensitive, and controversial legal matter," Breyer wrote.

Justice Antonin Scalia concurred in the denial along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

"In sum, the dissent would vacate the Court of Appeals' stay without expressly rejecting that court's analysis of any of the governing factors," Scalia wrote. "And it would flout core principles of federalism by mandating postponement of a state law without asserting that the law is even probably unconstitutional. Reasonable minds can perhaps disagree about whether the Court of Appeals should have granted a stay in this case. But there is no doubt that the applicants have not carried their heavy burden of showing that doing so was a clear violation of accepted legal standards - which do not include a special 'status quo' standard for laws affecting abortion." (Italics in original.)

Gov. Perry called the ruling "good news both for the unborn and for the women of Texas, who are now better protected from shoddy abortion providers operating in dangerous conditions."

Planned Parenthood meanwhile vowed to carry on the fight.

"While we are deeply disappointed, this isn't over," Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said in a statement Tuesday. "We will take every step we can to protect the health of Texas women. This law is blocking women in Texas from getting a safe and legal medical procedure that has been their constitutionally-protected right for 40 years. This is outrageous and unacceptable - and also demonstrates why we need stronger federal protections for women's health. Your rights and your ability to make your own medical decisions should not depend on your ZIP code."

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.