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SCOTUS Asked to Consider Challenge to Abortion Law's Provisions

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A coalition of women's health care providers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to permanently block provisions of a 2013 abortion law.

A group of health care providers is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review its challenge against a Texas abortion law. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court upheld two provisions of the 2013 law, but the Supreme Court allowed the provisions to go on hold while the plaintiffs appealed the lower court’s decision.  

The group of women’s health providers, led by Whole Woman's Health, argues that if this law goes into effect in full, Texas will have 10 abortion clinics left. That's down from the 41 clinics the state had before the law, called HB 2, went into effect.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is arguing the lawsuit — Whole Woman's Health v. Cole — on behalf of the plaintiffs against the law. The Center's president Nancy Northrup says the Supreme Court has already stepped in twice in the course of this litigation against this abortion law, and she hopes the court will get involved again.

"It’s time for the Supreme Court to step in because, although we are by and large winning these cases, women shouldn’t have to go to court again and again and again," she says.

The plaintiffs want the U.S Supreme Court to permanently block two provisions upheld by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. One requires doctors to receive admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their clinic, and another requires clinics to adopt the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman's Health, says this case brings up the challenge of how to define undue burden. This is a test articulated in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, when Justices established that abortion restrictions violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, if they pose a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman who wants to have an abortion before the fetus reaches viability. 

"I'm proud to be bringing a case proactively and bringing a case that really helps to define what is this undue burden, because I think there's been a lot of confusion," Hagstrom Miller says. "Women and families are confused as to what their rights are."

The High Court could also decide whether to take up a similar law from Mississippi. Justices start their next term in October. 

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