More than a dozen clinics that provide abortions in the state of Texas should be able to reopen their doors on Wednesday, following an unsigned order by the U.S. Supreme Court late Tuesday that puts on hold a lower court ruling that shuttered them.
The order from the high court, approved by a 6-3 margin, comes as a reprieve to women and reproductive rights advocates in the state who have been fighting to nullify a law passed by the legislature last year which has led to the closure of all but eight abortion clinics in the nation's second most populous state.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has been fighting the law said the order was most welcome but that the overall fight for women's freedoms in Texas was far from over.
“The U.S. Supreme Court gave Texas women a tremendous victory today," said Northrup in a statement following the court's decision. "[On Wednesday], thirteen clinics across the state will be allowed to reopen and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities."
However, she continued, “This fight against Texas’ sham abortion law is not over. HB2 was designed to gut the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade and half of the state’s clinics remain closed. We will continue this legal battle until the rights of Texas women are restored.”
According to the Washington Post:
The court’s decision is not a judgment on the Texas law, but whether the law’s new restrictions should be delayed while the legal battle continued.
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Texas has been a leader among a number of states that have enacted new requirements for abortion clinics. The states say the laws are meant to protect a woman’s health, but Northup and others have called them “shams” meant only to make abortion less accessible.
At issue is the Supreme Court’s decision more than 20 years ago that, although states may regulate access to abortion, they may not pose an “undue burden” on women who seek an abortion early in pregnancy.
But the new laws test the extent of that “undue burden” with new requirements that abortion providers say are hard for them to meet.
The Texas law, for instance, requires physicians at clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and it also requires the clinics to meet the standards of an “ambulatory surgical center.”
The Supreme Court in November agreed 5 to 4 that the admitting-privileges part of the law could be implemented, resulting in the loss of about half of the state’s 41 clinic providers. After the recent appeals court ruling, the number shrank to seven, the providers said.
The Supreme Court’s order issued Tuesday night, however, removes the admitting-privileges requirement for clinics in McAllen and El Paso. Providers there had said the requirement was particularly difficult to meet.