If you’ve been following the saga of recent legal challenges to Texas’ extreme anti-abortion laws, you’ll know that things have heated up in the last few weeks—and not in a good way.
The state’s omnibus anti-abortion bill, HB2, includes a number of provisions designed to limit women’s access to reproductive care. Different parts of the bill are facing different court challenges; here’s a rundown of what’s happening right now:
Today, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to re-hear a case first brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights in September 2013 challenging the constitutionality of two of the bill’s provisions: One requires abortion-providing doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, the other requires doctors to follow outdated research and procedures for providing medication abortions. Both provisions are currently in effect.
Said Nancy Northrup, CEO and president of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
Texas now stands at the epicenter of a national health care crisis brought on by politicians who have all but eliminated access to safe and legal abortion care for countless women.
On Oct. 2, members of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed another provision of HB2 to go into effect, requiring abortion clinics to meet the building standards of ambulatory surgical centers—an unnecessary and near-impossible feat for small offices which immediately caused all but eight of the state’s remaining clinics to close.
Women’s health advocates immediately challenged the decision, filing an emergency request with the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the 5th Circuit’s ruling. That request is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The limitations on abortion have left nearly a million Texas women—primarily middle- and lower-income—without access to care. In fact, the only women who can access abortion now are those in wealthy parts of the state, including Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
Women in the impoverished Rio Grande Valley, for example, lost their last clinic earlier this month. They now have to drive more than seven hours to get to an abortion clinic and then jump through hoops—such as having a mandatory ultrasound—to actually obtain the procedure. As Lindsey Rodriguez, president of the Lilith Fund, told The Huffington Post,
These laws, they always hurt people that have the least amount of economic means. The people who have money are able to travel to get abortions, while low-income, rural people that may not have access to easy transport are hit the hardest.
The Supreme Court has been ideologically divided in recent cases involving abortion law, but could ultimately decide the future of abortion care in the U.S.
“It is increasingly clear,” said Northrup, “that either the Supreme Court or Congress needs to step in to protect the rights of women across the nation from this relentless assault on their dignity, health and rights.”
We couldn’t agree more.