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Texas abortion providers ask SCOTUS to review restrictions

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comment from the Texas attorney general’s office.

Texas abortion providers on Wednesdayasked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their legal challenge to two provisions ofthe state’s strict abortion law.

After losing at the appellate level, acoalition of abortion providers is asking the high court for a reprieve from restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013.Those rules willrequire some abortion facilities to retrofit their clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, from minimum sizes for rooms and doorways topipelines for anesthesia and other infrastructure. A separateprovision, which has already gone into effect, requires doctors who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic.

Originally, the abortion providers challenged the ambulatory surgical center provision while asking for an exemption from the admitting privileges for two clinics:Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso. But the providers are now asking the Supreme Court topermanently block enforcement of both provisions.

The providers’request, which was expected, comes after the Supreme Court temporarily put that requirement on hold in June, delaying the closure of about half of the 19abortion facilitiesopen at the time in Texas.

Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the lawsuit against the state, have argued thatthe abortion restrictionscontained inHouse Bill 2 are unconstitutional, creating an undue burden for Texas women who would have to travel more than 150 miles to the nearest abortion facility, and because they do not advance the state’s interest in promoting health.The handful of abortion facilities in Texas that currently meet the hospital-like standards are in major cities.

The filing with the high court was not immediately available.

The Texas attorney general’s office has argued that the abortion restrictions are constitutional, reasonable measures meant to improve women’s health. Attorneys for thestate have said that the regulations would not create an undue burden for a majority of women seeking the procedure.

“Our office will continue to defend HB 2 to protect the health and safety of women and ensure abortion clinics in Texas meet basic standards,” attorney general spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer said Wednesday, adding that attorneys for the state will be filing a response.

The legal challenge to the state’s abortion law has been making its way through the courts for more than a year.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin struck down the provision mandating hospital-like standards just days before it was set to take effect.

The state immediately appealed to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In June, a three-judge panelupheld most provisions of the state’s abortion law, and then denied a request from abortion providers to delay its implementation while the providersappealed to the high court.

The appellate court had carved out an exception from most of the hospital-like standards for the Whole Woman’s Health clinic in McAllen and granted one of the McAllen clinic’s doctors relief from the admitting privileges requirement.

The abortion providers then turned to the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 to put the 5th Circuit’s ruling on hold. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted against the delay.

The Supreme Court must still decide whether to take up the case. The court’s next term begins in October.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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