In the state-by-state war on reproductive rights, one of the biggest battlegrounds—Texas—was hit with a crushing court ruling on Tuesday that upholds the harshest measures of a 2013 anti-choice law that, if fully implemented, could shutter almost all abortion facilities in the state.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the notoriously conservative U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals—comprised of George W. Bush appointees—allows the state to require that clinics offering abortions must meet stringent and expensive ambulatory surgical center standards. Furthermore, the ruling upholds the requirement that abortion providers seek admitting privileges at nearby hospitals for all but one clinic.
Providers and reproductive justice advocates alike say these requirements, under the guise of health regulations, are in fact medically unnecessary and aimed at closing these critical facilities altogether.
"Under the guise of making abortion safer, these requirements actually make abortion less safe and will prevent women from getting the abortions they need. Even procedures with higher complication and mortality rates don't have to meet these specious standards," said Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in a press statement.
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Before the law—House Bill 2—was passed in 2013, Texas had roughly 41 clinics that provided abortions. Today it has less than 20, and if Tuesday's ruling goes into effect, the number could dwindle to just seven.
This is in a state where abortion was already difficult to access, especially for low-income people, disproportionately impacting people of color and immigrant communities.
"Not since before Roe v. Wade has a law or court decision had the potential to devastate access to reproductive health care on such a sweeping scale," declared Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Once again, women across the state of Texas face elimination of safe and legal options for ending a pregnancy, and the denial of their constitutional rights."
"My heart breaks for the women and families of Texas," said Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. "This law was designed for one purpose: to keep a woman who has decided to get an abortion from getting one. It’s bad medicine, created by politicians and not doctors, and it’s deeply disappointing that the court has chosen to ignore women in favor of political maneuvering."
The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Associations, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have all come out against the legislation.
Reproductive justice advocates vowed to appeal Tuesday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.