The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals intensified the fight over abortion access in Texas late Friday, refusing to suspend its June 9 decision to allow a requirement that abortion clinics meet the same hospital-like building standards as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) in the state.
The Fifth Circuit denied an emergency request from Texas reproductive health-care providers to suspend the ruling while litigation challenging the constitutionality of the measure proceeds. The requirement is set to take effect July 1 and could force the closure of all but nine abortions clinics in the state, advocates say.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represents the reproductive health-care providers in the litigation, attorneys from their organization will submit an emergency application to the U.S. Supreme Court later this evening requesting the justices stay the appellate court’s June 9 ruling.
“As the Fifth Circuit once again turns a blind eye to the devastating consequences of Texas’ clinic shutdown law, it is imperative that the Supreme Court step in,” said Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement following the order.
The fight over the ambulatory surgical center provisions is the latest in a string of battles to try and keep abortion clinics open in the state following the enactment of HB 2. On August 29, 2014, a federal district court blocked the ambulatory surgical center requirement and the admitting privileges requirement in HB 2. But in October 2014, the Fifth Circuit issued an order staying the lower court’s injunction. Almost two weeks later, the United States Supreme Court reinstated the injunction following an emergency appeal by Texas reproductive health care providers.
Then, the Fifth Circuit’s June 9 decision again allowed the state’s ASC requirement to go into effect. The ruling also reversed the lower court’s injunction blocking the state’s admitting privileges requirement except as applied to a single doctor. This admitting privileges provision has already forced approximately half the state’s abortion clinics to close their doors.
The Roberts Court has before it a nearly identical admitting privileges law that, if allowed to go into effect, would close the last clinic in Mississippi. The Court could rule as early as Monday as to whether it will take up the Mississippi case.