The hot-button and hot-topic issue of abortion has woven its way in and out of the national limelight for decades. In Texas, however, very little time passes in the conversation before the topic is reintroduced, particularly in the Texas legislature and among the state’s politicians. This time the issue has made its way down from Congress and up the courthouse steps. In 2013 legislation was passed affecting abortion clinics and practitioners throughout the entire state. About half of Texas’ 41 abortion clinics were closed. The law was passed on the basis that it protected the health and safety of women and improved the standards of abortion clinics in Texas. The law required that all abortion businesses within the state follow surgical facility standards with their buildings, equipment, and staffing. Physicians were required to have admitting privileges at hospitals within thirty miles and 24-hour hotlines for patients experiencing complications. The United States Supreme Court blocked the law pending further action from the plaintiffs.
When abortion providers took the case to the Supreme Court they claimed the law would have terrible consequences. Their claim was that the law would “delay or prevent thousands of women from obtaining abortion.” They further asserted that such a law would not stop abortions, nor would it make the procedure safer. In fact, they told the Court, it would mean that some women would turn to “unsafe or illegal methods of abortion.” This would result in dangerous and potentially fatal conditions for the state’s 5.4 million women of reproductive age. With Texas being the second most populated state in the Union, and more than half of the abortion clinics already closed, the remaining 20 or so would simply not meet the needs of millions. Further, the plaintiffs asserted that this law, if effectuated, threatened to close the remaining twenty or so clinics left in the state. Part of the concern for the remaining clinics has to do with cost; some simply cannot afford to mandated upgrades. Others, however, are simply geographically impaired in that they aren’t within range of a hospital that will accept an abortion provider to admit a patient.
Although the United States Supreme Court temporarily blocked the enactment of the law, they did not hand down a final disposition about its enactment in the future. The plaintiffs have planned to file a hearing on the matter to finalize the fate of the legal grounds for this law. The office of Attorney General Ken Paxton stated last week that the goal of the law is simply to “protect the health and safety of women and ensure abortion clinics in Texas meet basic standards.” Further, Paxton’s office plans to file a response to the request for the hearing in support of the law as it currently stands.
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