Republican efforts in recent years to restrict access to abortion have generally been at the state level (along with debunked attacks on Planned Parenthood), but now the Texas law will have national significance with the Supreme Court deciding to hear the case. The New York Times reports:
The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear its first major abortion case since 2007, one that has the potential to affect millions of women and to revise the constitutional principles governing abortion rights…
The case is a challenge to a Texas law that would leave the state with about 10 abortion clinics, down from more than 40. Such a change, the abortion providers who are plaintiffs in the case told the justices, would have a vast practical impact.
“Texas is the second-most-populous state in the nation — home to 5.4 million women of reproductive age,” they wrote in their brief urging the court to hear the case. “More than 60,000 of those women choose to have an abortion each year.”
The case concerns two parts of a state law that imposes strict requirements on abortion providers. It was passed by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature and signed into law in July 2013 by Rick Perry, the governor at the time.
One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Officials in Texas said that the contested provisions were needed to protect women’s health. Abortion providers responded that the regulations were expensive, unnecessary and intended to put many of them out of business.
Think Progress has debunked claims of supporters of this law that the strict requirements are reasonable:
Yet, while these may seem like health regulations at first glance, they do little, if anything, to actually advance women’s health. As the Texas Hospital Association explains, for example, “thousands of physicians operate clinics and provide services in those clinics but do not have hospital admitting privileges.” Hospitals provide care to women who experience complications during an abortion — complications, it should be noted, that are extraordinarily rare — regardless of whether the physician who performed the abortion has admitting privileges or not. Similarly, the ambulatory surgical center requirement applies even in abortion clinics that do not perform surgeries — many abortions are induced by medication alone. The laws, in other words, impose burdensome and expensive restrictions on abortion clinics even when those restrictions bear no relationship whatsoever to advancing women’s health.
There is little doubt that these restrictions were written by opponents of the right of a woman to control her own body, with the goal of making it harder for women to obtain an abortion by causing multiple clinics which provide abortions to shut down. Opponents of the law expect that those clinics which do remain will be limited to the metropolitan areas of Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. This will leave many women in Texas without a nearby site to obtain abortions.