On Monday the Supreme Court ruled a Texas law requiring abortion providers to meet ambulatory surgical standards and physicians to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was unconstitutional. The ruling will help the comparatively sparse number of abortion clinics in the state continue to operate and open the door for additional clinics to resume their activities.
When the law was passed in 2013, the number of abortion clinics in Texas fell from 44 to 19. Supporters of the law said that it was meant to protect the health and safety of women seeking abortions.
“This fight is not over,” said state Republican Senator Charles Perry in a statement, “next session we will revisit this issue to ensure both women and unborn children are protected.”
“My immediate reaction literally was to burst into tears,” said Wendy Davis, a former senator who filibustered the bill. “There was so much riding on this.”
However, the ruling does not mean abortion clinics will be immediately reopening across the state. Clinics that were forced to close will essentially have to start from square one.
“We’ve had to let leases go or sell buildings that had mortgages,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president and chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates abortion clinics in Texas and was the lead plaintiff. “You’ve got to find physicians and rehire staff and go through relicensing processes, and get equipment and instruments and medicine. It’s not something that is going to happen overnight.”
“One reason we saw providers close was because they couldn’t get staff to stay on, with their jobs completely up in the air,” said Nan Little Kirkpatrick, the executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, which provides financial assistance to women seeking abortions in the northern half of the state. “Now that we have some assurance from the Supreme Court, I think it will be easier for providers to attract and keep staff.”