Supreme Court Blocks Some Texas Abortion Restrictions

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By Jess Bravin,

from The Wall Street Journal,

Justices Act in Litigation Over Abortion Clinic Standards.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked Texas from implementing abortion-clinic restrictions that could leave the state with as few as seven providers.

The high court’s order covered a provision in a Texas abortion law that requires clinic facilities to meet building standards for new “ambulatory surgical centers.” It also exempted clinics in El Paso and McAllen from a part of the law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Supreme Court order reinstated an August U.S. District Court ruling that had struck down those provisions as unconstitutional. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans had allowed the regulations to take effect while the state appealed the district-court ruling.

The case now goes back to the Fifth Circuit for further proceedings.

The court’s unsigned order didn’t include reasoning for the action, but it noted that Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have left the restrictions in place.

Tuesday’s order was a departure from the court’s earlier treatment of the Texas abortion law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups that has challenged the Texas law, praised Tuesday’s action. Nancy Northup, the group’s president, said in a statement that 13 clinics would now be allowed to reopen “and provide women with safe and legal abortion care in their own communities.”

Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in November, said his “office will continue to defend the law.” In legal papers, the state said the new rules reflect the Texas Legislature’s effort to “improve patient health and safety,” and fall within the discretion Supreme Court precedents grant lawmakers in regulating abortions. At issue, is the meaning of the precedents permitting states to regulate abortions as long as they don’t impose an “undue burden” on women’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

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