The U.S. Supreme Court made no decision Monday on whether or not it will take on the Texas abortion case that challenges a pro-life bill.
The high-stakes case has both pro-choice and pro-life activists anxiously awaiting a decision.
If the U.S. Supreme Court takes the case, it would likely be the biggest abortion case in more than two decades. If the justices reject the appeal-challenge, the law would go into effect immediately and half the abortion clinics in the state would be forced to close overnight.
The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, centers on House Bill 2—the law that’s bounced around the various court systems since it was signed in 2013.
“The bill that is basically designed to shut down safe and legal abortion clinics,” said Heather Busby, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
The law banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and limited the use the abortion pill, but the lawsuit filed a group of abortion providers challenges two administrative regulations in HB-2.
The regulations would require abortion clinics to operate under the same hospital-like standards as surgical centers. Doctors who perform abortions would also have to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of clinics.
The regulations were halted until the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the appeal, a process that started last Friday.
Busby called the regulations an “end-run around the constitution that takes away access to the most vulnerable people in the state.”
Pro-life activists support the law because they believe the increased regulations would make abortions safer—and if upheld, the regulations would force close half of the abortion clinics the state to close.
“Our preference is that abortion would simply not go on in Texas,” Joe Pojman said, “but if they are going to go on, abortions should not go on in a manner that endangers the health and safety of women.”
The President of the Texas Alliance for Life, Pojman said, “Perhaps not all, but many feel that they are harmed, so grievously harmed by the abortion, physically, emotionally, scarred from that and we want to protect women from having to go through that.”
In the appeal-challenge, Whole Woman’s Health argued, “Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the United States.” According to a study listed in the appeal-paperwork, nationally, the risk of death resulting from an abortion is “exceptionally low”— 0.6 per 100,000.
Pro-choice activists argue the regulations are another road block to try to stop access to abortion services in the state. “What is has done already is make abortion access less safe,” Busby said.
There were more than 40 abortion clinics in Texas when Governor Rick Perry signed HB-2 in 2013.
Since then, the number of clinics dropped to 20 and if the U.S. Supreme Court rejects the appeal, the regulations would go into effect immediately. Only 10 clinics would remain open in Texas—all located in big cities.
At Pro-Choice Texas, Busby said some clinics are already so over-crowded that wait times for appointments are more than 20 days. “By pushing people further into their pregnancy because of the wait times for appointments and for having to travel out of state, it’s actually jeopardizing the health and safety of Texas women,” Busby said.
Pro-life activists said there are many other providers that offer care to pregnant women in Texas, what Pojman called, “compassionate alternatives” to abortion, like adoption services.
“All rights flow from the basic right of life, if we are not alive we can’t enjoy any other rights, the right to education, the right to vote, the right to health care,” Pojman said.
The U.S. Supreme Court met to for the first time for private discussions last Friday but no decision was made. The nine justices will continue closed-door discussions at the end of this week, and a decision on the case could be announced as early as Friday. At least four of the nine justices must agree to take the case for HB-2 to be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.