SCOTUS Refuses Intervention into House Bill 2

Justice Antonin Scalia, the author of SCOTUS’ majority opinion to not interfere with the 5th Circuit’s decision to allow House Bill 2 to take effect.

As you may have heard last night, The Supreme Court of the United States issued a 5-4 ruling refusing to intervene into the 5th Circuit Court’s decision to allow House Bill 2 to be implemented in Texas, citing that there was not enough evidence that the court’s decision is causing harm to Texas women.

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion was a short nine pages, ending with Justice Scalia saying that “there is no doubt that the applicants have not carried their heavy burden of showing that doing so was a clear violation of accepted legal standards-which do not include a special “status quo” standard for laws affecting abortion. The Court is correct to deny the application.”

In the even shorter dissenting opinion, Justice Breyer cited four reasons for disagreeing with the court’s majority opinion. In his fourth reason, he sided with abortion providers, saying that “the balance of harms tilts in favor of the applicants” and that “If the law is invalid, the injunction properly prevented the potential for serious physical or other harm to many women whose exercise of their constitutional rights to obtain an abortion would be unduly burdened by the law. And although the injunction will ultimately be reinstated if the law is indeed valid, the harms to the individual women whose rights it restricts while it remains in effect will be permanent.”

From our press release:


11/20/2013-AUSTIN, TX Thousands of women will continue to be denied their constitutional rights and access to abortion services in Texas following an order issued today by a majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to reinstate an injunction blocking a measure that has forced approximately one-third of the state’s licensed health centers providing safe and legal abortion to immediately stop.

In dissenting from the Court’s majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote: “Although the injunction will ultimately be reinstated if the law is indeed invalid, the harms to the individual women whose rights it restricts while it remains in effect will be permanent.”

Whole Woman’s Health is the lead plaintiff in the case represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights with clinics in Austin, Beaumont, Fort Worth, McAllen and San Antonio and has been providing safe, compassionate abortion services to women in Texas communities for over 10 years.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO and President of Whole Woman’s Health states, “The reversal of the injunction to block HB 2 has greatly affected Whole Woman’s Health staff, doctors and the women we serve all across Texas. The stories we have collected in our clinics from women and their families as they confront this injustice over the past three weeks are heartbreaking.”

The provision, which took effect on October 31 after a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed a lower court’s injunction, requires all abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital-a measure that has halted abortion services at more than a dozen clinics across Texas.

Hagstrom Miller continues, “The fact is that the hospital privileging process is not simple nor is it efficient. We have highly trained physicians who are qualified for privileges, and we have countless applications in to multiple hospitals throughout the state. But this is not about physician training or qualifications, this is about politics. To date,  more than one hospital has denied even sending our MDs an application for privileges because of their affiliation with Whole Woman’s Health – and these are board certified, published, and accomplished OB/Gyns. Make no mistake; this law was designed to block access to abortion for Texas women. And it is working.”

Immediately after U.S District Judge Lee Yeakel issued an injunction against the measure on October 28, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the decision and asked the appellate court to lift the injunction put into place by Judge Yeakel’s decision pending the outcome of the appeal.  The Fifth Circuit granted the state’s request late on October 31, allowing the state to immediately start enforcing the unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement while the case challenging the law proceeds.

Whole Woman’s Health will continue to advocate for women and find ways to help women get the safe healthcare that they need. Hagstrom Miller reminds us, “Women deserve our compassion, empathy and advocacy. We stand with Texas women.”

Our case is still expected to be heard by the Supreme Court after it goes through the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in January.