US Supreme Court set to rule on abortion restrictions in Texas

A protester holds a copy of the Bible outside of the US Supreme Court building in Washington .Reuters

The US Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the next few days regarding abortion restrictions in Texas, which were upheld by an appeals court.

Last June 9, the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals upheld two provisions of HB2, passed and signed in Texas in 2013, that provide that doctors performing abortion should have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles from where the procedure is to be conducted and that all abortion clinics should have standards set just like for ambulatory surgical centres (ASC).

The appeals court on June 19 rejected the emergency request from abortion providers in Texas and upheld its June 9 ruling.

Ten of the remaining 19 clinics in Texas will have to close by July 1 without an order from the Supreme Court.

The abortion providers, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, submitted an emergency application to the US Supreme Court requesting for a stay of the appeals court's ruling.

"As the Fifth Circuit once again turns a blind eye to the devastating consequences of Texas' clinic shutdown law, it is imperative that the Supreme Court step in," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center.

Describing the Texas law as harmful, she said no woman should be forced to travel hundreds of miles and cross state lines to get an abortion.

The Center said major medical groups including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have submitted a joint amicus brief opposing the Texas abortion restriction law.

They said the HB2 "does not serve the health of women in Texas but instead jeopardises women's health by restricting access to abortion providers."

In its June 9 decision, the appeals court said women in El Paso, Texas, could travel to New Mexico, where there are no ASC or admitting privileges requirements, to have an abortion.

In August 2014, a federal district court blocked HB 2's ASC and admitting privileges requirements. The Fifth Circuit issued an order staying the lower court's injunction in October 2014.

"Texans should have full freedom to prioritise women's health and safety over the bottom line of abortionists," said Natalia Decker, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the appeals court last November, urging it to uphold the Texas law.

Life Legal Defense Foundation legal director Katie Short defended HB 2, saying that "Texas's law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital does not unduly restrict the pool of doctors who could provide abortions."