By Dave Andrusko
In a widely watched case, a coalition of abortion providers in Texas told reporters that they formally filed an appeal with the United States Supreme Court challenging two provisions of HB 2, Texas’ 2013 omnibus pro-life bill.
A decision whether to take up the challenge could be months away, although it is expected that justices will hear the challenge brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR).
Adding urgency is that if the High Court does accept the case, a decision could come down in mid-2016, in the midst of the presidential contest.
At issue are two provisions–that abortion clinics meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) and that abortionists have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital for situations of medical emergencies.
The various and sundry challenges to HB 2 have been winding their way through the legal system for over a year and half. The ins and outs, the twists and turns are mind-numbingly complex.
The abortion “providers” argue the requirements have no purpose other than to limit access to abortion and that they represent an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to abort.
“The Texas attorney general’s office has argued that the abortion restrictions are constitutional, reasonable measures meant to improve women’s health,” reports the Texas Tribune’s Alexa Ura. “Attorneys for the state have said that the regulations would not create an undue burden for a majority of women seeking the procedure.”
Here is a very brief summary of the labyrinth through which the challenges have moved.
#1. It is very important to remember what was NOT challenged by the CRR. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which is part of HB2, prohibits killing unborn children who have reached the developmental milestone of being able to feel pain, which substantial medical evidence places at 20 weeks, if not earlier.
#2. As NRL News Today reported, in 2013, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin struck down the ASCs provision days before it was set to take effect. On appeal from the state, In June 2014 a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most provisions of the state’s abortion law.
#3. The CRR appealed to the Supreme Court which put the ruling of the 5th Circuit on hold. In addition, the justices also exempted clinics in El Paso and McAllen from another part of the law that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. (The CRR argued that abortion clinics were especially hard-hit in this part of Texas.) But the admitting privileges rule remains in effect elsewhere in Texas.
#4. A different three-judge panel of the same federal appeals court blocked Mississippi’s admitting privileges requirement. An appeal from the state of Mississippi is currently pending in the Supreme Court.
The Court’s next session begins in October.