AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Supreme Court is expected to decide one of the most important abortion cases in more than two decades this week.
House Bill 2, passed by then-Gov. Rick Perry in 2013, requires abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as an ambulatory surgical center. It also mandates doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Pro-choice organizations have said the law is unnecessary and places a burden on abortion clinics and doctors that will, in the end, force many to close.
The effects have already been seen. NBC reports that, since the law was passed, the number of clinics providing abortion services in Texas dropped from 42 to 19. That number is expected to drop to 10 if the Supreme Court upholds the law.
Even before the clinics closed, the number of abortions in the state was already dropping. From 2008 to 2011, the total number went from 81,000 to 73,000.
The high court’s decision will have an impact far beyond Texas, as 12 other states have similar abortion laws on hold. Justice Anthony Kennedy has signaled he may find the law poses too much of a burden on a woman’s right to an abortion, which could dash the state’s hope for a 4-4 tie.
Timeline of events
In what became a filibuster heard around the world, State Senator Wendy Davis stood for 11 hours on June 25, 2013 in the hope of killing the Republican-backed bill that would create some of the nation’s toughest abortion regulations. Gov. Perry called legislators back the next day and the measure was passed within weeks. He signed the bill into law on July 18, 2013.
On Oct. 14, 2014, the Supreme Court blocked key parts of the 2013 law. Attorneys for the state denied that Texas women would be burdened by fewer abortion facilities, saying nearly 9 in 10 would still live within 150 miles of a provider, the Associated Press reported at the time.
A federal judge in Texas struck down parts of the law aimed at reducing access to abortion, rather than promoting women’s health. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans disagreed, mostly siding with the state.
In June 2015, the country’s highest court put the appellate ruling on hold, suggesting a majority of supreme court justices support cutting state regulations on abortion clinics.
Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead on a West Texas ranch on Feb. 13. The decision by congressional Republicans to not hold nomination hearings for President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the seat leaves the court with four liberal justices, three conservative justices and one swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy. A tie would leave the law in place.
“We went from more than 40 clinics in Texas – now we’re down to about 15. We will immediately lose six of those if the Supreme Court rules against Whole Women’s Health, and have less than 10 in Texas – with none west of I-35,” Susan Hays, an appellate attorney who lobbied for NARAL Pro Choice America, said in February.
The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision on the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, this week.
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas maps the abortion clinics currently open in the state: