SCOTUS Halts #HB2 Implementation, Protects Abortion Access in Texas For Now

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Coming on the heels of an historic week at the United States Supreme Court, today 5 justices issued an emergency stay blocking the implementation of HB 2, Texas Republicans’ draconian back-door abortion ban set to take effect this Wednesday, July 1.

The legislation — made famous by Wendy Davis’s filibuster against it in the summer of 2013 — would have left only nine abortion providers open in a state with 5.4 million women. Now, nineteen remain, down from 41 in 2013.

Had the worst provisions of the law gone into effect in two days, it would have had dire consequences for Texans seeking access to safe, legal abortion. Studies repeatedly show that when abortion is made illegal or inaccessible, it does not reduce the incidence of termination, but rather force individuals to make dangerous, risky choices to end unwanted pregnancy.

Allowing HB 2 to proceed would have effectively denied millions of Texans access to their reproductive rights, and it would have disproportionately impacted the poor, those in remote and rural areas, and communities of color.

The Rio Grande Valley would be particularly hard-hit, with the nearest clinic in San Antonio. Add in the 24-hour wait for a medically unnecessary sonogram, and costs for transport and lodging, and abortion becomes impossible to obtain.

Procedurally, SCOTUS is still considering whether to hear an appeal of the decision that effectively ordered them to close. At issue are the ambulatory surgical center requirements and the need for doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, both of which actual public and reproductive health experts have found totally bogus.

It’s worth noting that former Governor and future-twice-failed-Presidential-candidate Rick Perry signed HB2 amid much fanfare and protest two years ago, and then-AG Greg Abbott actively pressed SCOTUS to allow Texas to implement the law.

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, bad-ass native Texan, and daughter of the last Texas governor actually worth a damn, released the following statement:

“We are grateful the Supreme Court has stepped in to protect women’s access to safe, legal abortion, for now. Restricting or banning abortion blocks women from getting safe medical care.

“This dangerous law never should have passed in the first place — which is why we need to elect leaders who will champion women’s health and rights. Texas has become a cautionary tale and an example of what could happen in all 50 states if Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and other Republican contenders have their way.”

In an ironic twist that only underscores the philosophical inconsistency of those conservatives who call themselves “pro-life,” the same four justices that opposed the emergency stay for HB 2 (Scalia, Alito, Roberts, and Thomas, obvs) were in the majority for a decision basically enshrining the death penalty by any means available for the foreseeable future.

The emergency stay issued today will remain in effect until either a) SCOTUS declines to hear HB 2, or b) takes up the case and it works its way until a final decision. The timeline isn’t clear but could be as short as four or five months and as long as several years. SCOTUS is already hearing may also hear a case about abortion access in Mississippi, and their opinion in that case could send HB 2 back to the Fifth Circuit for review.

Nevertheless, between the HB 2 emergency stay, rulings in favor of marriage equality, fair housing, and the Affordable Care Act, and the upholding of Arizona’s citizen redistricting method, SCOTUS is ending their year on a history-making and high-profile week.

Here at BOR we celebrate the emergency stay because it will actually protect the health and safety of Texans and preserve access to reproductive rights in the next few months at least.

Let’s hope SCOTUS takes the case and shuts down these cockamamie TRAP laws and the undue burden they place on individuals once and for all.

Clinics stay open, y’all!


About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

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