Texas Health Care Providers Take Fight Against Unconstitutional Law to U.S. Supreme Court

November 4, 2013 12:00 am

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Please be advised there will be a press teleconference TODAY at 11:30am ET/10:30am CT with plaintiffs in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, representatives from the groups representing the plaintiffs, as well as a Texas woman prevented from accessing an abortion on Friday. To participate, please call (877-211-2374; passcode: 2289917).

November 4, 2013

CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

AUSTIN — Following a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that allowed the immediate enforcement of a state law blocking women from getting services from one-third of abortion providers in the state, reproductive health care providers have taken their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Today the women’s health care providers who jointly filed suit last month on behalf of their patients have filed an emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate an injunction granted by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on October 28 blocking a Texas provision requiring doctors who provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital — a requirement that leading medical associations oppose and only results in women losing access to safe medical care.

“Last week’s court decision allowing this extreme measure to take effect has already begun to hit the state of Texas like a tsunami, taking away vital health services from women,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The women of Texas are counting on the Supreme Court to ensure they have access to the care they need.”

In striking down the unconstitutional law, Judge Yeakel said, “the admitting privileges provision of House Bill 2 lacks a rational basis and places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.” Indeed, this provision has forced approximately one-third of the state’s licensed health centers providing safe and legal abortion to immediately stop, and therefore access to safe and legal abortion has been completely eliminated in vast stretches of Texas. According to news coverage, women in the Rio Grande Valley have been left with no place to turn, more than 100 women had appointments canceled in Austin and Forth Worth, and abortion services have been suspended at a provider in El Paso. When asked what she will do if she cannot access a safe and legal abortion in Texas, one woman in Harlingen said, “I think I will have to go through with the pregnancy. I don’t have the finances to travel.”

“Over the last couple of days, women who made the complex and deeply personal decision to have an abortion showed up at their doctor’s appointment and could not get a safe and legal medical procedure that has been their constitutionally protected right for 40 years. We’re asking the Supreme Court to stop Texas’ dangerous and extreme law from taking effect because your rights — your very ability to make your own medical decisions — should not depend on your zip code,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

After Judge Yeakel issued an injunction against the measure, Texas attorney general Greg Abbott immediately appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit and asked the appellate court to lift the injunction put into place by Judge Yeakel’s decision pending the outcome of the appeal. The Fifth Circuit granted the state’s request Thursday night, and allowed the state to immediately start enforcing the unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement while the case challenging the law proceeds. Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas remain open after the appeals court ruling and are providing birth control, cancer screenings, and other services; abortion services have been suspended at one-third of the state’s licensed providers because of the ruling.

“Right now, women in vast swaths of Texas are being turned away at clinic doors because of a bogus law that attempts to do underhandedly what states cannot do directly block women from accessing abortion services,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We now look to the Supreme Court to protect women’s access to these essential health care services while we fight this critical court battle.”

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbot, was jointly filed on September 27 on behalf of more than a dozen Texas health care providers and their patients Planned Parenthood Federation of America, by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Texas law firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.

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