Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight for Abortion Access to U.S. Supreme Court

Texas women facing devastating loss of constitutionally protected health care

(PRESS RELEASE) Following a decision Thursday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed the immediate enforcement of a far-reaching and extreme Texas law that has left no more than eight clinics left standing in the entire state—women’s health care providers have taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Today the women’s health care providers—represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights—filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on August 29 permanently blocking the provisions of Texas’s HB2 that that now has nearly one million Texas women facing a minimum of a 300 mile roundtrip to access their constitutional right to an abortion. 

Said Nancy Northup,president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“There can be no question that just a handful of clinics left to offer safe, legal abortion care to all women across the vast state of Texas is a dire emergency in need of an immediate response. 

“Every hour that these clinics are closed adds to the number of women, many facing urgent circumstances, who will be denied essential care and their constitutional rights. Every day that passes increases the likelihood that these shuttered clinics will never be able to open again.

“Women’s constitutional rights and access to safe, legal abortion care have been dealt a devastating blow. We look now to the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately reinstate the injunction, allow the clinics to reopen, and put an end to the irreparable and unjustifiable harm to Texas women that is happening right now.”

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling on October 2 immediately allowed the state’s requirement that every reproductive health care facility offering abortion services meet the same building requirements as hospital-style surgery centers to go into effect immediately—a provision that amounts to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services and has closed more than a dozen of the state’s remaining providers.

The ruling also stayed the district court’s injunction against the admitting privileges requirement as it applies to two of the state’s hardest-hit communities in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas—a provision that has already closed approximately half the state’s abortion clinics. 

This is the Center for Reproductive Rights’ second challenge to Texas’ House Bill 2 (HB2), a sweeping package of anti-choice legislation that was passed last summer.  The first suit—filed in September 2014—challenged the law’s unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement as it applies to all clinics in the state, as well as its onerous restrictions on medication abortion. These provisions were ultimately upheld by a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and now the plaintiffs await a decision on whether the full appeals court will rehear the case. 

The clinics and physicians in this challenge are represented by Stephanie Toti, Esha Bhandari, and David Brown of the Center for Reproductive Rights, J. Alexander Lawrence of the law firm Morrison & Foerster, and Austin attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell of the law firm O’Connell & Soifer.

Said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health:

“After just a few days, we have already begun to see the real impact of these onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions. We are being forced to turn women away from safe, compassionate health care simply because of our politicians’ ideological agenda.

“Texas politicians may have closed some of our clinics doors, but Whole Woman’s Health remains committed to the women of this state and we are more determined, bolder, and stronger than ever. And we are proud to stand with the Center for Reproductive Rights and other independent abortion care providers as we take this fight all the way to the U.S Supreme Court.”

Major medical groups oppose the types of restrictions found in Texas’ HB2 Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services. Medical experts confirm that legal abortion care in the U.S. is extremely safe, with less than 1 percent of patients requiring treatment at a hospital.  ACOG also opposes the imposition of medically unnecessary facility requirements on abortion providers.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's 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.  Elected officials in two Texas cities—Austin and Houston—have called for the repeal of HB2 and the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act.