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A Hotly Debated Texas Abortion Clinic Law is Heading to the Supreme Court

Getty - JIM WATSON

The Supreme Court announced Friday it will review a landmark 2013 Texas law that imposes new rules for abortion clinics and abortionists.

In the new abortion case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the high court will hear a challenge to two aspects of the law:

  1. A requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their office;
  2. That abortion facility meet the same health and safety standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.

Five other states require abortion facilities to meet safety standards similar to the 2013 Texas law, according to The Dallas Morning News. And 11 other states have laws requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges near their clinics, but six of those cases are facing court challenges.

Anti-abortion demonstrators protest in front of the US Supreme Court during the 41st annual March of Life in Washington, DC, January 22, 2014. Held around the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, the march draws thousands from around the country for a rally on the National Mall before marching up Capitol Hill to the US Supreme Court. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Image Credit: SAUL LOEB/Getty

Back in 2013, the law prompted then-Texas Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) to famously filibuster while wearing pink sneakers. Davis went on to lose the 2014 gubernatorial race and her state Senate seat went to a pro-life female Republican.

The Supreme Court could hear the case as early as February, but the decision will not come until next summer.

Before the law passed, Texas had around 40 abortion clinics in the state but the number is currently down to 18, and some clinics argue the number can drop to as low as 9 or 10 in the entire state.

A graphic from The Dallas Morning News shows the locations of open abortion clinics:

Abortion providers argue that neither of the two stipulations in the law is necessary and puts an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.

Supporters of the law counter that while adding safety upgrades to abortion clinics and admitting privileges to providers may be inconvenient, states have the right to pass laws ensuring abortion facilities meet adequate standards for women.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole will be the first time in eight years the Supreme Court weighs in on abortion law. The case will provide the Supreme Court an opportunity to clarify its 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which ruled states may not place undue burdens on the right to abortion before fetal viability.


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