Media outlets are highlighting the drastic consequences that implementing Texas' House Bill 2 (HB2) -- a law restricting women's access to safe, legal abortions by imposing “several medically unnecessary requirements” on providers -- would have on women in the state trying to access reproductive health care after news broke that Texas abortion providers have asked the Supreme Court to a hear a challenge to the restrictions.
Texas Abortion Providers Ask Supreme Court To Hear Challenge To The State's Restrictive Abortion Law
Texas Abortion Providers Urge Supreme Court To Reverse Republican-Backed State Abortion Restrictions. Abortion providers in Texas “asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to hear their challenge to the state's Republican-backed restrictions on abortions that they contend are aimed more at shutting clinics than protecting women's health.” As Reuters reported:
Texas abortion providers asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to hear their challenge to the state's Republican-backed restrictions on abortions that they contend are aimed more at shutting clinics than protecting women's health.
If the Supreme Court hears the appeal, it would be one of the most anticipated cases of the court's next term, which starts in October. The nine justices are likely to decide by the end of the year whether to hear the case, meaning oral arguments could come in early 2016 with a ruling by the end of June.
“We have to understand that what happens in Texas won't stay in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of abortion provider Whole Woman's Health, a plaintiff in the case.
A U.S. appeals court in June upheld the main provisions of the law including one requiring clinics to have certain hospital-grade facilities even for abortions induced by medication. [Reuters, 9/3/15]
Media Highlight How, If Not Overturned, HB2 Would Harm Women And Drastically Reduce Access To Reproductive Health Care In Texas
USA Today: Texas Court Decision “Could Shut Down 75% Of The State's Abortion Clinics” In A State Where The “Number Has Dwindled” Already. A September 3 report from USA Today explained that the law women's health care providers asked the Supreme Court to overturn “could shut down 75% of the state's abortion clinics and lead to similar restrictions in other states,” and highlighted how the law has already contributed to Texas' drastically lower number of clinics compared to other states:
Women's health care providers in Texas asked the Supreme Court Thursday to overturn a federal appeals court decision that could shut down 75% of the state's abortion clinics and lead to similar restrictions in other states.
The threat posed to all but 10 of the state's clinics by a law passed in 2013 makes it likely that the high court will once again weigh in on an issue that has divided the nation for more than 40 years.
The Texas law requires abortion clinics to employ doctors who have admitting privileges at local hospitals and to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Its challengers claim the restrictions are meant to limit abortions rather than improve health care and would force all but 10 clinics to close in a state where about 60,000 women seek abortions annually.
Before the law was passed, the state had more than 40 clinics. That number has dwindled to 18. By comparison, California has about 500 abortion clinics, and New York has about 250. [USA Today, 9/3/15]
The New York Times: Texas Abortion Restrictions “Have Already Caused About Half Of The State's 41 Abortion Clinics To Close” And Will Relegate Services To Just Four Urban Areas. In a September 3 article, The New York Times explained that parts of Texas' restrictive law “have already caused about half of the state's 41 abortion clinics to close,” and “If the contested provisions take effect ... the number of clinics will again be halved,” and those remaining would be “clustered in four metropolitan areas”:
Other parts of the law have already caused about half of the state's 41 abortion clinics to close. If the contested provisions take effect, Wednesday's filing said, the number of clinics will again be halved.
The remaining clinics, the brief said, would be clustered in four metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.
“There would be no licensed abortion facilities west of San Antonio,” the brief said. The only clinic south of San Antonio, in McAllen, it added, would have “extremely limited capacity.” [The New York Times, 9/3/15]
The Huffington Post: Texas Restrictions “Would End Abortion Access For Low-Income Women In Rural Areas Of The State.” Huffington Post's Laura Bassett explained in a September 3 article that should the law be implemented in full, the restrictions “would end abortion access for low-income women in rural areas of the state, who are already having a hard time finding providers”:
But the restrictions in question would end abortion access for low-income women in rural areas of the state, who are already having a hard time finding providers. Texas had 42 abortion clinics before the law was passed, and 24 of those clinics have already been forced to close due to a slew of other anti-abortion laws.
The law went into effect briefly before the Supreme Court temporarily blocked it in October 2014. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the clinic regulations and admitting privileges requirement in June, but the Supreme Court stepped in and blocked them again. If the high court declines to formally review the case, the law will go into effect, shutting down all but 10 of the 18 remaining clinics and leaving large swaths of rural Texas without any access to a provider.
For the short time the law was in effect, Texas saw a glimpse of its consequences. The eight abortion clinics that remained open at the time were flooded with phone calls from panicked women and reported longer waits for appointments. The Huffington Post reported that Texas women were already seeking abortion pills on the black market and crossing into Mexico for illegal, unsafe abortions due to a lack of providers. [The Huffington Post, 9/3/15]
MSNBC: HB2 Would “Impose Significant Burdens On Women Trying To Exercise Their Constitutional Rights” To Reproductive Health Care. MSNBC noted that the restrictive law would “impose significant burdens on women trying to exercise their Constitutional Rights”:
House Bill 2, the law passed by the Texas state legislature and signed by then-Gov. Rick Perry, is one of many new abortion restrictions across the country that impose significant burdens on women trying to exercise their Constitutional rights. With this law, the state of Texas imposed several medically unnecessary requirements - mandating that clinics meet the same structural facility expectations as ambulatory surgical centers, and that clinicians have hospital admitting privileges - which have the purpose and effect of reducing the number of abortion providers. If all the provisions of the law are allowed to go into effect, 75% of the state's clinics will be shuttered. [MSNBC, 9/3/15]
The Austin Chronicle: HB2 Would "Leave Nearly 1 Million Women More Than 150 Miles From The Nearest" Abortion Provider. The Austin Chronicle, an independent newsweekly, wrote that the law would leave “nearly 1 million women more than 150 miles from the nearest provider”:
Abortion providers argue the ruling “flouted longstanding [Supreme Court] precedent” by defying standards set by seminal 1992 abortion-rights case, Casey v Planned Parenthood. The 5th's inability to find that the “abrupt closure” of more than three-fourths of Texas abortion clinics would create substantial obstacles to abortion access, “makes a mockery of the standard articulated in Casey,” they write. Such “blatant defiance” of the Court's precedents calls for review.
Providers also call into question the law's ability to uphold Fourteenth Amendment guarantees as it, “fails to respect [a woman's] equal citizenship status and would force her to grapple with unnecessary and substantial obstacles as a condition of exercising her protected liberty.” Review from the nation's highest court is needed to avert “profound and irreparable harm” to Texas women, they conclude.
Some legal experts view the Texas case as the most likely to reach SCOTUS, as the Chronicle previously reported (see “Next Stop for HB 2 - The Supreme Court?” June 26) and the health care providers themselves voice confidence in the possibility of the high court taking their case. They point to the fact that the Supreme Court has now stopped parts of HB2 twice and while five justices allowed the temporary block, only four justices are needed to approve a request.
Before HB2 went into effect, the state had 41 abortion clinics. The ASC rule is expected to shut down at least 10 of the remaining 19 clinics in the state and leave nearly 1 million women more than 150 miles from the nearest provider. Whole Woman's Health was forced to permanently shutter its North Austin clinic (now transformed into an abortion rights non-profit) and its clinic in Beaumont.
“Our ability to get safe medical care should not depend on whether we have the resources necessary to navigate a horrific and complex obstacle course dreamt up by anti-choice lawmakers,” said Miller. “This is the real world and these laws have real implications on real women's lives. [The Austin Chronicle, 9/3/15]