In a devastating blow, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to uphold some of the most draconian restrictions of HB2, also known as the “clinic shutdown law.” The bill puts all but seven abortion clinics at risk for closure in a state with 5 million women of reproductive age.
Now in a mere 22 days, all abortion clinics in the state will be expected to satisfy the standards set for ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs). The cost of the facility changes necessary for clinics to meet the criteria—such as widening hallways and adding janitors’ closets—would, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which challenged HB2 in court, be in the millions of dollars, effectively making the changes impossible for smaller, independent clinics.
The court justified its decision by saying these requirements ensure patient safety. However, the judges disregarded expert testimony given by Texas abortion providers showing that performing abortions in a clinic setting is perfectly safe and that “there is no medical basis for requiring facilities in which abortions are performed to meet ASC standards.”
Just to rewind, there are four parts to HB 2. Three of these have already gone into effect: requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles; mandating that patients follow outmoded protocols for taking the abortion pill; and banning abortion after 20 weeks. The ASC requirement will be the final nail in the coffin, making Texas a nightmare come true for women who will need to drive hundreds of miles or even leave the state to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion. Par for the course, low-income women without resources will be affected most.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement:
Not since before Roe v. Wade has a law or court decision had the potential to devastate access to reproductive health care on such a sweeping scale. Once again, women across the state of Texas face the near total elimination of safe and legal options for ending a pregnancy, and the denial of their constitutional rights.
Texas abortion providers won’t be giving up the fight anytime soon. They plan to appeal again, this time to the Supreme Court.