U.S. Government, Legislators, Doctors, Legal Scholars, Business and Faith Leaders Join Fight Against Texas Clinic Shutdown Law

Diverse supporters unite to urge U.S. Supreme Court to overturn deceptive Texas law that creates unconstitutional limits on safe, legal abortion

(PRESS RELEASE) An unprecedented collection of diverse and influential U.S. organizations and individuals have filed 45 amicus curiae briefs urging the Supreme Court to reject Texas’ clinic shutdown law and once again affirm longstanding precedent by upholding a woman’s constitutional right to access safe and legal abortion services.

These briefs reflect an extraordinary consensus among the nation's trusted medical experts, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as organizations representing pediatricians, nurses, family physicians, osteopaths, hospitalists and public health specialists. Their briefs thoroughly discredit the phony health justifications Texas legislators relied on in passing HB2, a 2013 law designed to shutter abortion clinics with medically unnecessary red tape.

Today’s briefs also include the largest coalition of faith leaders and faith organizations ever to oppose anti-choice laws at the high court, as well as a groundbreaking collection of individual stories that underline the importance of access to safe and legal abortion in women’s lives. Additional amici include the U.S. Solicitor General, state and federal legislators from both sides of the aisle, and hundreds of leading voices from fields as diverse as law, theology, entertainment, business and national defense.

Their briefs outline the substantial harm Texas women will face if the nation’s highest court affirms a June 2015 ruling from the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed the law’s most damaging provisions to take effect, and the threat that ruling poses to the separation of powers and the rule of law.

The law has already shuttered half of the abortion providers in Texas, and is poised to leave the nation’s second-largest state with 10 or fewer clinics. After intervening twice to keep the Texas clinics open, the Supreme Court agreed in November to review the law, which was designed to shut down clinics that provide safe, legal abortion under the guise of improving women’s health.

Oral arguments have been scheduled for March 2, 2016.    

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

“Never before has such a diverse array of organizations and leaders from the fields of medicine, government, law, business and religion stepped forward to condemn abortion restrictions at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“These briefs present a thorough record of the undeniable damage Texas’ sham law has and will continue to cause, and an indisputable legal argument for why it must be struck down. 

“This deceptive law is an affront to science-based medicine, an insult to women’s dignity, and reflects a total disregard for the rule of law and the rights of millions.”

Case history

Following a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive rights on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health and several other Texas health care providers in April 2014, a federal district court blocked the ambulatory surgical center requirement and the admitting-privileges requirement.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed that decision in large part on October 2, 2014, allowing the requirements to immediately take effect. Because forcing hospital-style surgery center building and staffing requirements on every clinic would amount to a multi-million dollar tax on abortion services, all but 7 reproductive health care facilities in the state were prevented from offering safe and legal abortion services for 12 days. On October 14, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the injunction in large part, allowing many of the previously closed clinics to reopen their doors while the state’s appeal moved forward.

On June 9, 2015, the Fifth Circuit’s final decision in the appeal once again upheld the state restrictions in substantial part, this time threatening to shutter all but 10 abortion providers in the state. Once again, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to block the Fifth Circuit’s decision and allow the clinics to remain open while the legal challenge continued.

The Texas health care providers asked the U.S Supreme Court to review the case in September 2015; a diverse group of medical and public health organizations, state attorneys general, and leading legal scholars urged the U.S. Supreme Court to accept the case a month later. On November 13, 2015, the nation’s highest court agreed to review Texas’ clinic shutdown law. 

Clinic closures have been shown to create costly increases in wait times and push some women to take matters into their own hands. Recent research demonstrates that at least 100,000 Texas women of reproductive age have ever attempted to end a pregnancy without medical assistance.  The findings suggest that self-induction is disproportionately prevalent in Texas, where extreme clinic shutdown laws have drastically limited women’s access to reproductive care.

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