Reuters 13 November 2015
The U.S. Supreme Court took up a major new abortion case on Friday, agreeing to hear a challenge by abortion providers to parts of a restrictive, Republican-backed Texas law that they contend are aimed at shutting clinics that offer the procedure.
The case focuses in part on a provision that has not yet gone into effect requiring clinics to have costly hospital-grade facilities. A separate section of the 2013 law that requires abortion clinic physicians to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (50 km) is also at issue but has gone into effect in most parts of Texas.
The last time the nine justices of the Supreme Court decided a major abortion-related issue was in 2007 when they ruled 5-4 to uphold a federal law banning a late-term abortion procedure.
The Supreme Court legalized abortion more than four decades ago but abortion remains a contentious issue in the United States and some states have sought to chip away at a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.
These states have pursued restrictions including bans on certain types of abortion procedures, regulatory standards imposed on clinics and abortion doctors, waiting periods, ultrasound requirements and others.
The dispute will be one of most closely watched cases of the court’s current term. Oral arguments are likely to be held in early spring, with a decision coming by the end of June.
Backers of the Texas law asserted that the provisions being challenged before the Supreme Court were necessary to protect the health of women.
“The advancement of the abortion industry’s bottom line shouldn’t take precedent over women’s health, and we look forward to demonstrating the validity of these important health and safety requirements in court,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican.
The abortion providers, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, asserted that the state’s justifications are a smokescreen for trying to close down clinics to make abortions more difficult to obtain. They said that before the law was passed there were 42 clinics in the state that provided abortions. After the first part of the law went into effect, more than half of those clinics closed, leaving 19 currently open.