It is expected that the next big Supreme Court case involving abortion will originate from Texas. In 2013, a law was implemented that closed abortion clinics in Texas significantly reducing access to abortion and an increase in abortion costs for women who still chose to go through the procedure.
Texas has 17 abortion clinics today as compared to 41 in 2012. These 17 clinics are located in major cities but the Texas County is nearly 111 miles away from the nearest clinic. This change in the number of clinics and their accessibility occurred after the restrictions, part of House Bill 2, were imposed in 2013 under which clinics were required to meet ambulatory surgical centre standards and physicians needed to have admitting privileges at the local hospital. The goal of the legislation was to safeguard women’s health. However, critics were of the opinion that the regulations were unnecessary and were nothing but an undue burden on women’s right.
House Bill 2 has affected western Texas the most because it is more rural. Women have to travel nearly 250 miles to reach the nearest clinic. Nearly a fifth of all Texas counties are approximately 100 miles from a clinic. Keeping the Teas population density in mind and the uproar over these restrictions, it is quite likely that opponents will challenge this legislation in the Supreme Court.
Dan Grossman, the vice president for research at Ibis Reproductive Health, countered in an interview that abortion “is the only procedure that’s being singled out in terms of all these requirements.” The sparseness of other medical services is not the consequence of legislators trying to shut down their facilities, a fundamental difference, he said.
It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear the case Whole Woman’s Health versus Cole in November. Arguments are expected around February and a decision should be made by June 2016. If those challenging the restrictions win the case, then these restrictions will be classified as unconstitutional and all those clinics that were shut down will be able to reopen their services. However, if the opponents are not given the chance to argue their case in front of the Supreme Court, then 7 more clinics out of the remaining 17 clinics in Texas are also likely to be closed down. That is because they don’t meet the ambulatory surgical centre requirement and do not have a large nursing staff and rigid temperature control. For the moment, these clinics are operations on the basis of a stay that was issued by the Supreme Court till an appeal was filed.
Let’s see how events unfold and how this abortion battle plays out. Other states including Mississippi and Louisiana have also passed the same restrictions and are likely to face the same resistance. It all depends on how the Supreme Court rules on the issue.