The Supreme Court Steps in to Save Texas’ Abortion Clinics

Posted July 17, 2015 by Christina Tudor

By Christina Tudor, 2015 YP4 Fellow

Recently the Supreme Court stepped in to keep several Texas abortion clinics open—for now.

This last minute Hail Mary indicates that there is a good chance that the Supreme Court will hear Whole Women’s Health v. Cole the upcoming term.

The Supreme Court successfully stopped the closing of more than half of Texas’ 19 abortion clinics. The justices voted 5-4 to grant an emergency appeal from the clinics after a federal appeals court upheld new mandated clinic regulations

The decision was in response to Texas House Bill2 (HB2) which was essentially a series of unnecessary health laws that were enacted by anti-choice legislators. These legislators were able to get around the Supreme Court’s mandate that no law can interfere with the right to choose under the disguise of making abortions safer for women. These laws require abortion doctors have admitting privileges to nearby hospitals and enacted extensive, expensive architectural provisions for abortion clinics to comply with in order to remain open.

Abortion facilities, just like any other medical facility, should be sanitary, safe and operated by competent medical personnel. Although HB2 is designed to look like a health regulation, it does little to actually help patients. There is no evidence that this actually makes abortion safer for women.

Instead, many clinics are forced to shut down because they can’t afford to make all the required changes.

In fact, according to a publication on Thinkprogress.org, a federal district judge determined that “there is no rational relationship between improved patient outcomes and hospital admitting privileges,” and he reached similar conclusions with respect to the portions of the law regulating clinic facilities.”

As a result, of HB2 several YP4 alumni have come together to increase abortion access in Texas.

Ryane Ridenour YP4 ’10, Raquel Ortega, FLLA ’12, Steven Hernandez ’13, and Alyssah Roth, YP4 ’14 joined together to fight strict abortion bans by founding the West Fund, the first abortion fund to specifically serve women El Paso, Texas.

Before HB2, Texas had 40 licensed abortion clinics and if the law takes full effect, “only seven facilities and a potential eighth will exist in Texas that will not be prevented . . . from performing abortions.”

This decision resulted in “higher health risks associated with increased delays in seeking early abortion care, risks associated with longer distance automotive travel on traffic-laden highways, and the act’s possible connection to observed increases in self-induced abortions.”

As a result, the Supreme stepped in and temporary stopped this problematic legislation from taking effect on July 1.

Recently Alyssah  from The West Fund spoke to a reporter about a client “Marisol” who was seeking an abortion from local Hilltop clinic. Here’s what she said:

“The process for looking for a clinic, finding money, finding childcare, finding transportation, and everything else can add up and push an appointment so that a person is even further along. So because none of the clinics in the area even do abortions this far along, Marisol had to look further [to Albuquerque, 270 miles away in New Mexico] in order to get an appointment,” said Alyssah Roth, West Fund’s president.

“The full cost was $1,250, and she had no insurance. This does not include the price of travel, childcare, days not at work, and so on. Most abortion funds cannot give a person more than $200-$250, so she had to reach out to multiple funds in order to get the full amount covered. She also said she was able to put in money herself, but that would also make her late on rent.”

Following the court’s 5-4 order, Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which led the lawsuit claimed that, with the temporary hold, the 10 clinics will be able to stay open, in addition to another nine that were not impacted by the provisions.

Here we can see the true power of the Supreme Court can have in advancing equality and important reproductive justice issues.

Monday’s order could even potentially reopen some of the 20 clinics and then some that have already closed.

The West Fund has served 24 clients since they launched six months ago and if the Supreme Court order isn’t upheld then El Paso will be the biggest city in America without an abortion provider.

According to thehill.com, “this is the second time that the Supreme Court has stepped in to temporarily halt pieces of the 2013 law, which activists say gives them hope that the court will eventually overturn lower courts’ decision to uphold the law.”