Supreme Court Stays Odious Texas Abortion Law, Allows Nine Clinics To Stay Open For Now

A mere 72 hours after making marriage equality the law of the land, the Supreme Court may be poised to make fundie heads explode once again. In 2013, Texas passed a draconian abortion law that, if allowed to fully take effect, could shutter all but 10 of the state’s abortion clinics, including the only clinic in the western part of the state. Earlier this afternoon, the Supreme Court stayed the full implementation of this law while it considers whether to hear an appeal from eight clinics that could face closure.

abortion clinics
A member of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Pro-Choice America protest with their “Etch A Sketch” in hand protest outside a hotel in Washington, DC, where Republican Presidental hopeful Mitt Romney was holding a political fundraiser on March 22, 2012. The protesters called for a stop on the war on women and object to Romney’s proposal to stop federal support for Planned Parenthood. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images) — Image via MSNBC

The justices voted 5-4 to keep the clinics open pending appeal. Not surprisingly, it broke along ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the court’s four liberals in favor of granting the stay. From where I’m sitting, this makes it very likely that the Supremes will ultimately grant cert, which would all but assure that the clinics–two in Dallas-Fort Worth, four in Houston, one in Austin, and one in El Paso–stay open at least through the end of the Supreme Court’s term in October.

If the law is implemented in full, there will be no licensed clinics west of San Antonio. The only clinic south of San Antonio will be in McAllen, near the Mexican border–but that clinic will have nowhere near the capacity as centers in the Metroplex, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law on June 9, and the clinics wasted no time in filing an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court.

If the justices do take this up, they will get a chance to put one of the pro-life movement’s favorite tactics of late–targeted regulation of abortion providers, or TRAP–under the microscope. These laws are billed as protecting the safety of women–a claim that is disingenuous when you consider that many pro-life groups prop up crisis pregnancy centers that scare women with information that’s often dangerously inaccurate. And these people have the nerve to feign concern about women’s safety?

Two common TRAP provisions are at issue in the Texas abortion law. One requires all of the state’s abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as outpatient surgery centers. This would require renovations that are prohibitively expensive for many of these clinics. Moreover, they are completely unnecessary; the risk for complications from abortion is only 0.3 percent–so low as to be statistically insignificant. Such requirements are almost never imposed on other outpatient centers that perform low-risk procedures.

The other provision requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Never mind that a number of hospitals balk at granting admitting privileges to abortionists. Some turn them down for religious reasons or because they don’t want to be subjected to the increasingly ugly and nakedly aggressive picketing methods of pro-life groups. Others turn them down simply because abortion carries so little risk that clinics almost never send women to the ER. Hospitals only grant admitting privileges to doctors who regularly send them patients.

Texas’ abortion law was one of many churned out in the wake of outrage over the crimes of Kermit Gosnell. Never mind that Pennsylvania officials hadn’t investigated an abortion clinic in two decades prior to the raid on Gosnell’s clinic. They also ignored numerous reports of illegal activity at Gosnell’s clinic until rumors that he was selling narcotics on the side prompted a raid. As we know all too well, facts never get in the way of a campaign of hate. And as we also know, whenever lawmakers rush into acting on important issues without taking the time to look into them, you end up with bad law.

Unless I’m very wrong, it looks like the Supreme Court is poised to take a long, hard look at an abortion law that is founded on junk science. If and when that happens, let’s hope that Kennedy draws the same conclusion that the Court’s four liberals, as well as we in Liberal America, have drawn–that this law is so odious that it should be put in the shredder.

Darrell is a 30-something graduate of the University of North Carolina who considers himself a journalist of the old school. An attempt to turn him into a member of the religious right in college only succeeded in turning him into the religious right's worst nightmare--a charismatic Christian who is an unapologetic liberal. His desire to stand up for those who have been scared into silence only increased when he survived an abusive three-year marriage. You may know him on Daily Kos as Christian Dem in NC. Follow him on Twitter @DarrellLucus or connect with him on Facebook. Click here to buy Darrell a Mello Yello.