Washington D.C., Nov 13, 2015 / 15:30 pm
The Supreme Court of the United States announced Friday that it will hear a challenge to Texas' safety standards for abortion clinics, in what could be a significant abortion case.
Pro-life advocates welcomed the opportunity for the court to uphold the law.
"The Supreme Court now has the opportunity to confirm that states have a legitimate and compelling interest in better ensuring the safety and health of women who enter abortion clinics," stated Sarah Torre and Elizabeth Slattery of the Heritage Foundation Nov. 13, in response to the Court's announcement.
The law enacts "sensible regulations" that show "a laudable concern for the safety of women," said Dr. Grazie Christie of The Catholic Association in a statement.
"The Supreme Court will now have the chance to put women's health before the corporate financial interests of Planned Parenthood and their affiliates, as the citizens of Texas intended," she added.
The Texas law was passed in 2013 after a filibuster by then-senator Wendy Davis (D) helped delay the vote, receiving national attention. The law mandated higher safety standards for abortion clinics and banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, on the grounds that unborn babies of that age can feel pain.
Specifically, the law holds abortion clinics in the state to the same health standards as those of ambulatory surgery clinics, and requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in case of a post-abortion health emergency. Clinics must also provide a 24-hour hotline for women when such emergencies arise.
The requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges was initially struck down by a federal district court in 2013, but was upheld by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in June. The Supreme Court afterwards, by a 5-4 margin, granted a temporary stay on the law going into effect, pending an appeal to the court by its opponents.
In September, abortion clinics in the state had asked the Court to hear their challenge to the law. The petitioners argued in part that the law violates the court's 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld a women's right to abortion as "a fundamental liberty," and that states cannot enact "unnecessary health regulations" that pose "a substantial obstacle" to this right.
After the 2013 law's passage, the number of abortion clinics in the state fell by more than half, the petition noted.
Texas attorney general Ken Paxton's office responded that the law is meant to "protect the health and safety of women and ensure abortion clinics in Texas meet basic standards."
Other supporters of the law's passage pointed to evidence from the 2013 trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell showing the need for strong health regulations at abortion clinics.
Gosnell was convicted in 2013 on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter after babies were killed after birth at his clinic. A police raid of his clinic had revealed horrific sanitary conditions, and the grand jury report claimed that if his clinic met the health standards of a surgery center, the life of one woman could have been saved.