By Dave Andrusko
With three justices dissenting, the Supreme Court tonight blocked parts of H.B. 2, the 2013 omnibus pro-life bill, from taking effect. Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would have allowed the entire law to be enforced.
As NRL News reported, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in early October upheld the requirement that abortion clinics meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers
However the High Court’s five-sentence-long order tonight vacated that part of the decision reached by Judges Jennifer Elrod, Jerry Smith, and Stephen Higginson. It will allow the clinics to remain open while appeals proceed.
The justices also exempted clinics in El Paso and McAllen from a part of the law that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. But the admitting privileges rule remains in effect elsewhere in Texas.
On October 2, the appeals court panel reversed the Austin-based U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel. Yeakel had concluded that the requirement that abortion clinics meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers “burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United States Constitution for the 40 years since Roe v. Wade.”
The New York Times accurately described the panel’s reasoning in this manner:
“The appeals court, drawing on the Supreme Court’s last major abortion decision [Gonzales v. Carhart], said the law’s challengers had not shown that a ‘large fraction’ of women seeking abortions would face an unconstitutional burden thanks to the law.”
Still up in the air is a separate lawsuit challenging the requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges. As NRL News Today reported, last March a different three-judge appeals court panel unanimously upheld the requirement.
That decision was appealed to the full 5th Circuit. Last week, on a 12-3 vote, the court refused to reconsider the ruling.