Supreme Court puts HB2 provisions on hold

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The Supreme Court temporarily put two provisions of House Bill 2 on hold Tuesday, allowing some abortion clinics in Texas to reopen.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled earlier in October to enforce the two provisions — one requiring ambulatory services and the other requiring hospital-grade surgery facilities in all abortion clinics in Texas.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to block the provisions, which would have shut down all but eight of Texas’ abortion clinics. The court made the decision in response to an emergency application filed by attorneys representing Texas women’s health care providers. The application asked for the court to reinstate U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel’s injunction to block the ambulatory services provision of HB2.

The court did not release an expanded opinion of their decision but specified that Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito would have rejected the emergency application completely. 

In its decision, the court also said the admitting-privileges provision, which requires abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, would be null at the McAllen and El Paso clinics.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who filibustered an earlier version of the law in June 2013, expressed her support for the Supreme Court’s decision to block the previous ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The court recognizes that these deeply personal decisions should be made by a woman with the guidance of her family and her doctor,” Davis said in a statement Tuesday.

Thirteen abortion clinics in the state will be able to reopen Wednesday, according to Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which has represented the abortion clinics as the provisions have been deliberated by the courts.

The 5th Circuit Court will continue to review the law until it makes a final decision on its constitutionality. Lauren Bean, deputy communications director for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, said the office “will continue to defend the law, just as we defend all state laws when they are challenged in court.”

Alexander Parker, College Republicans communications director, said the decision did not mark the end of reproductive legislation decisions.

“It’s certainly been back and forth,” Parker said. “However, the attorney general has remained committed to defending HB2 as he would any other law. We’ll just have to wait to see what the final decision is.”

University Democrats President Max Patterson praised the decision as it will allow women in the state easier access to clinics.

“It means that women in Texas, including those on campus, will not see unconstitutional restrictions to their right to make their own, very personal health care decisions concerning their own bodies,” Patterson said.