Two weeks ago, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a major blow to reproductive rights in Texas, allowing the state to begin enforcing sweeping abortion restrictions. The result, among other things, meant only eight women’s health clinics would remain open in the massive state.
Reproductive-rights supporters had one just remaining option: appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a bit of a surprise, as Irin Carmon reported last night, the effort paid off.
The Supreme Court has temporarily reversed the devastating impact of Texas’s restrictive abortion law, blocking a law that earlier this month had closed all but eight legal abortion clinics in the second-largest state. The immediate result, a rare victory for abortion rights, is the expected reopening of 13 clinics that closed on October 2. […]The main provision the Supreme Court addressed Tuesday requires abortion clinics to spend millions of dollars to turn into mini-hospitals; it has had the most sweeping impact. Combined with an earlier provision requiring abortion providers have hospital admitting privileges, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect.
The Supreme Court’s ruling was 6 to 3, with Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan in the majority, and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas in the minority. The brief court order is available online here (pdf).
For supporters of abortion rights, the fact that Roberts and Kennedy joined the more progressive justices on this came as a very pleasant surprise, and offers new hope to pro-choice advocates about the future legal fights.
As a practical matter, before Texas’ law was approved, the state had more than 40 women’s clinics, a total that dwindled to 21, and then just 8 a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday’s developments at the high court will mean 13 facilities that recently had to close their doors can begin seeing patients again.
It’s worth emphasizing that this is not the end of the legal road for Texas’ restrictions. As Carmon’s report makes clear, “Tuesday’s action is temporary and doesn’t bind the justices’ votes if and when they hear the case in full. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had waved in the law earlier this month, still will have its say.”
If you missed last night’s coverage, Rachel’s segment at the top of the show is worth your time.