Health Care Providers Ask Full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to Reconsider Texas Law that Blocks Abortion Access

(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America have filed a petition (case number 13-51008) asking the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to reconsider the constitutionality of the provision of Texas’ HB2 which requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges. This is a measure that has forced some health centers to close and others to stop providing abortions, making access to abortion services scarce in the state.

While the federal district court struck down the requirement as unconstitutional, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that ruling, allowing the law to take effect and forcing abortion providers across the state to stop providing abortions or close altogether, leaving thousands of women without access to care. Two weeks ago, the Fifth Circuit panel issued a final decision upholding the law.

Today’s filing asks the full Fifth Circuit to reconsider this decision.

“Thousands of Texas women are teetering on the brink of a pre-Roe reality, when the options for women seeking to end a pregnancy were illegal at best and deadly at worst,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We look to the full court to enforce the Constitution, follow Supreme Court precedent, recognize the real life harms to the women of Texas, and block this law from being enforced."

“We’re asking the court to acknowledge what is crystal clear—this law hurts women,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director for the ACLU. “Because of this law, women are being forced to choose between putting food on the table and traveling hundreds of miles to get the care they need. This law does absolutely nothing to further patient safety.”

“The politicians behind this law are the same politicians who slashed funding for cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic health care for Texas women. Make no mistake, the intent of this law is to eliminate access to safe, legal abortion, plain and simple. Planned Parenthood will do everything we can to stop politicians from imposing their agenda on Texas women. A woman’s rights and her ability to access medical care should not depend on her zip code,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The law at issue singles out abortion providers, requiring them to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where they provide abortion services. This requirement is extremely difficult for many to meet for reasons that have nothing to do with their medical qualifications. Major medical organizations like the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose these types of laws because they do not improve patient safety but instead harm women by shutting down abortion providers throughout the state.

Courts have blocked similar provisions in other states across the country. Admitting privileges requirements aimed at shutting down all or most of the abortion providers in Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin have been halted before they took effect.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Texas from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.