Supreme Court halts Texas abortion law, letting clinics stay open

Supreme Court halts Texas abortion law, letting clinics stay open
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The Supreme Court on Monday halted the enforcement of a controversial Texas law that would have closed 10 abortion clinics by July 1. 

The court's 5-4 order, announced late Monday, is in response to an emergency request by abortion providers in the state who have long challenged Texas’s regulations.

“Today I truly breathe a sigh of deep relief,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Woman's Health, which led the lawsuit. “We did it. We kept Texas’ clinics open."  

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With the temporary hold, the 10 clinics will be able to stay open, in addition to another nine that were not impacted by the provisions, Miller said.

Monday's order could also spur some of the 20 clinics that have already closed back into business and more could still open, Miller said.

The fate of the regulations will remain in limbo until the fall, when the Supreme Court will decide whether to take up the appeal. Four of the court’s more conservative members – Chief Justice John Roberts and associate justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – opposed the order.

This is the second time that the Supreme Court has stepped in to temporarily halt pieces of the 2013 law, which activists say gives them hope that the court will eventually overturn lower courts' decision to uphold the law.

"We think it’s a strong possiblity that the court will take this case," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The Texas law is among the strictest in the country and drew national attention after a marathon filibuster from then-Democratic state senator Wendy Davis. Since then, about half of the state's 41 clinics have closed.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the provisions into law, condemned the court’s decision. 

“The Supreme Court’s stay unnecessarily puts lives in danger by allowing unsafe facilities to continue to perform abortions. I am confident the court will ultimately uphold these commonsense measures to protect the health and safety of Texas women,” Perry, a presidential candidate, wrote in a statement.

The order concerns two parts of the law: One requires doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within a 30-mile radius. The second requires that all abortions, even medically-induced abortions, must be performed in an ambulatory surgical center.

Abortion rights advocates quickly cheered the order, which they say preserves access for women in a state that has seen a declining number of clinics.

- This post was updated at 4:53 p.m.