But an appeals court last week allowed the law to move forward, sending local clinics into crisis mode, since many of their doctors had trouble obtaining the required admitting privileges or were still in the process of obtaining them.
The Supreme Court granted on Friday a request made by abortion clinics in Louisiana to temporarily block the abortion law pending appeal. This basic strategy was outlined and encouraged in a 1985 Justice Department memo authored by the now sitting Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who then argued that they present an “opportunity to advance the goals of bringing about the eventual overruling of Roe v. Wade and, in the meantime, mitigating its effects” and that “this approach is preferable to a frontal assault on Roe v. Wade“.
The legal group representing the clinics says some facilities in Louisiana have already had to stop providing abortions in order to comply with the law.
Justices Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said Texas does not similarly regulate other medical procedures that are more risky, including dental surgery and colonoscopies. By taking Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, though, the Court has re-entered the fray and stands to again reset the parameters for abortion politics.
The justices previously had blocked the same appeals court’s ruling in Texas while it considers that case.
The Supreme Court was closely divided in the oral arguments on Wednesday in the biggest abortion case in the generation. A federal court issued a temporary restraining order that month, allowing the provision to take effect but blocking enforcement of the law while doctors tried to meet the requirement.
As a result, there’s been a huge increase in women being forced to travel to different states, or opting to try and self-abort: a University of Texas study found between 100,000 and 240,000 women in Texas alone have tried DIY terminations since the 2013 law was passed, because they can’t access one close to home.
South Texas’s only abortion clinic, located in the border town of McAllen, has become a battleground for abortion activists on both sides.
“Based on the argument, it did not seem that the abortion clinics would get 5 votes on any ground”, he said in a March 2 statement. But others criticized the rules, which have been voted into law by legislatures across the country, as medically unnecessary and created to limit access to abortion.
Coming shortly after the justices debated a similar Texas law, the order indicates a majority of the high court is unwilling to permit conservative states to enforce stringent regulations, at least for now. Texas lawmakers, she said, were “only targeting abortion“.
“Last week we saw women in Louisiana thrown into a waking nightmare, with appointments cancelled overnight and health centers flooded with calls”, said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The law is responsible for closing abortion clinics that could not guarantee they could protect the health of Texas women. Doctors can perform those procedures safely in a doctor’s office, without the need for a fully equipped surgical center, they said.
The solicitor general argued there is evidence showing that the remaining clinics in Texas are not ready to handle large numbers of extra patients they would have to take on because of the closures of clinics that didn’t meet state requirements.
The Supreme Court is considering an nearly identical case in Texas with national implications.