Supreme Court allows abortion clinics to remain open

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday granted a request from abortion clinics in Texas to put on hold a lower court ruling that would have shuttered all but a handful of abortion clinics, while the clinics appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

In a one-page order the Court said “the application for stay presented by Justice (Antonin) Scalia and referred to him by the Court is granted and the issuance of the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in case No. 14-50928 is stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari.”

It was 5-4 decision, the order noted that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Scalia , Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would deny the application.

The case concerns two provisions of a 2013 law that pro-choice groups say has caused more than a 75% reduction in abortion facilities in a two-year period. At issue is the so called Ambulatory Surgical Center requirement that mandates that abortion facilities must upgrade facilities to hospital-like standards, as well as the admitting privileges requirement that provides that the physician performing the abortion must have privileges at a local hospital.

A lower court largely upheld the provisions.

In Court briefs, the clinics argued that before the law was enacted there were 41 licensed facilities providing abortions in Texas and currently there are 19. That number would drop to nine if the ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is not put on hold.

“The Fifth Circuit’s conclusion that the drastic reduction in the number and geographic distribution of abortion providers caused by the challenged requirement does not operate as a substantial obstacle to abortion access in Texas is plainly wrong and reflects profound errors in the Court’s understanding and application of controlling legal principles,” wrote lawyers for the clinics.

But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton urged the justices to allow the law to go into effect saying it “protects women’s health.”

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said her organization was grateful for the Supreme Court’s action.

“Restricting or banning abortion blocks women from getting safe medical care,” she said in a statement. “This dangerous law never should have passed in the first place — which is why we need to elect leaders who will champion women’s health and rights.”