SCOTUS temporarily blocks new Texas abortion laws

WASHINGTON -- The United States Supreme Court ordered part of Texas' new abortion laws to be put on hold while a group of petitioners including abortion clinics and doctors can file an appeal to the high court.

The application for a stay was granted in the case of Whole Woman's Health, et al. vs. Cole, Commissioner, Texas DHS, et al.

According to the Supreme Court's order, the stay puts on hold a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that had previously upheld Texas' new abortion laws as not being unconstitutionally burdensome on women.

Justice Antonin Scalia received the request last week and while he and three other justices opposed the request, the stay was still granted. The stay is only in place until the plaintiffs can file for a writ of certiorari from the Supreme Court. A total of four justices will have to agree to hear the case for it to come to the nation's top court.

The law in question is House Bill 2 (HB2). In 2013 a Republican-led Texas Legislature passed the bill, which contains a variety of abortion regulations including requiring doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles and that abortion clinics be surgical centers. As a result, nearly half of the clinics around the state closed and according to NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, seven additional clinics would have to close July 1, leaving only nine open.

Whole Woman's Health in Austin is one of the clinics that initially closed. Its owners filed the lawsuit that is being discussed in the Supreme Court. The stay allows the seven clinics that were set to close -- including Whole Woman's Health -- to remain open.

"If the court had not issued this order today, we would have more than 60,000 Texas women trying to fit through nine clinic doors per year," said Susan Hays, Legislative Counsel for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.

Pro-Life proponents say the court is over-stepping its bounds.

"Clearly the Supreme Court is once again not respecting the will of the people throughout the state of Texas. I mean, this law passed with overwhelming support," said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a statement late Monday that .said, "The U.S. Supreme Court is continuing their attack on state's rights with a narrow majority of activist justices. Their decisions to allow abortion clinics to continue their lower-stand practices places women's lives in danger. I wish there weren't any abortions, however a woman chooses to have an abortion should receive the same high-quality care that is available at a hospital."

Hays said the stay will help give low-income women and those in rural areas access to clinics. Those on the other side of the issue say HB2 is about safety, and they hope the Supreme Court justices will agree.

The Supreme Court will rule by June 2016.


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