Supreme Court Stalls Final Decision on Texas Abortion Clinics
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) insists the Supreme Court is endangering the health of women in his state following the Court’s ruling against a Texas law, HB 2, that had increased standards for abortion clinics.
The Court issued a two-paragraph opinion June 29 granting a temporary stay on a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which had supported most of the Texas law that forced abortion clinics to meet the same equipment, staffing and building requirements as hospitals.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) criticized the Supreme Court ruling, not only for what it would mean for women, but also because of what he said it meant for the issue of states’ rights.
“HB 2 was a constitutional exercise of Texas’ lawmaking authority that was correctly and unanimously upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Abbott declared.
The three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit Court ruled June 9 that “Texas’ stated purpose for enacting H.B. 2 was to provide the highest quality of care to women seeking abortions and to protect the health and welfare of women seeking abortions. There is no question that this is a legitimate purpose that supports regulating physicians and the facilities in which they perform abortions.”
HB 2 is the legislation that put Texas Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis in the national spotlight and made her the darling of MSNBC when she launched an 11-hour filibuster.
The debate was intense even after Davis sat down. Sen. Dan Patrick (R), speaking in support of HB 2, asked his colleagues, “How would God vote?”
Democrats offered nearly two dozen amendments during the debate in 2013, a woman chained herself to the Senate gallery railing to protest the legislation, and thousands of other people stood outside the Senate dressed in orange, chanting their opposition to the bill.
But in the end, 17 days after David sat down and rested her voice box, Texas Republicans were able to get HB 2 onto then-Gov. Rick Perry’s desk.
The Republicans won.
Abortion-rights advocates, like Lena Dunham, were outraged by HB2. They branded its regulations “onerous” and said they would force dozens of clinics to close.
Dunham, never one to shy away from the power of a tweet, couldn’t hold back any longer when the news broke that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the Texas law.
“These politicians think they can trick us, via loopholes & false concern, into giving up our RIGHTS. They underestimate women & their allies,” Dunham tweeted. “The broads I’ve met in Texas, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t wanna fight ’em. Love to those doing battle for us all.”
“What’s happening to women and the right to choose in Texas is TERRIFYING. Let’s educate ourselves so we can fight,” Dunham also tweeted.
Proving they were not too exhausted after celebrating Supreme Court decisions that came down during what Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told radio host Sean Hannity were “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history,” pro-choice supporters applauded the stay of the circuit court ruling.
Texas state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) said she was pleased the court had blocked the “devastating impact of HB 2” before it goes into effect on July 1.
“The number of reproductive health care clinics in Texas would go from 40 to less than 10 and will put tremendous obstacles in the way of a woman's constitutional right to a safe and legal health care procedure,” she said.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder, president, and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said, “We’re relieved that the high court has, once again, prevented anti-choice politicians from pushing safe and affordable abortion care entirely out of reach for Texas women.”
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said HB 2 was filled with “sham regulations” that were only designed to “sneak around the Constitution to close clinics’ doors.”
Attorney General Paxton said abortion clinics that could not meet the standards imposed by HB 2 should be closed. He also maintained the argument that HB 2 would endanger the health of women in Texas was preposterous.
In fact, he said the exact opposite was true.
“The Highest Court in our country just put Texas women in harm’s way,” said Paxton in a statement released by his office. “HB 2 ensures abortion clinics and doctors meet basic health standards if they choose to operate their businesses in Texas. Today’s delay subjects Texas women to substandard care all to the benefit of the abortion industry’s bottom line.”
The Supreme Court gave no indication of when or how it will eventually rule. But Abbott issued a statement supporting HB 2 and his hope that it will survive.
“Texas will continue to fight for higher-quality healthcare standards for women while protecting our most vulnerable – the unborn,” said Abbott, “and I’m confident the Supreme Court will ultimately uphold this law.”