U.S. Supreme Court Abandons Texas Women

9185724041_cb44d83569It looks like the women of Texas won’t be getting an 11th-hour reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The country’s highest court decided this week, on a 5-4 vote, that it will not block a recently enacted anti-choice provision that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. That provision—which is extremely hard to obtain for a doctor who lives out of state but flies to Texas to perform abortions, plus is unnecessary for a patient to access emergency care—has already forced more than a dozen of the state’s women’s health centers to cease abortion care. The anti-choice laws pushed through by Gov. Rick Perry (R) have left large swaths of the state with no abortion providers.

The four Justices who dissented from the majority were Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. According to SCOTUSBlog, “They said that the women who are denied access to abortion while the law is in force will suffer permanent harm.”

Said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas:

Lawmakers in Texas and other states have passed bills like this for the sole purpose of limiting access to safe, legal abortion, not promote women’s health. Since the law was allowed to go into effect in Texas, women and families have experienced its devastating impacts firsthand, especially in rural and poor areas where healthcare options were already limited. We will do everything in our power to defend the rights of Texas women and ensure the courts block this harmful law.

This comes on the heels of Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights advocates winning a brief legal victory in halting implementation of the law, only to have the win quickly overturned by an appeals court.

Louise Melling, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, said that it won’t give up on Texas women:

If the constitutional right to abortion means anything, it must mean that laws like this one that prevent women from obtaining an abortion must be invalidated. This is a very disappointing decision, but we will continue to do everything we can to protect the health and rights of Texas women.

The legal battle over the admitting privileges provision is not over, however. The case remains on appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals until arguments are heard in January. The restrictions will remain in place until then.

Photo courtesy of adora1995 via Creative Commons 2.0.


Associate editor of Ms. magazine