Texas Abortion Fight Goes To US Supreme Court

Abortion rights groups in Texas have made an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The coalition is trying to reverse the requirement that abortion doctors get hospital admitting privileges.

First the abortion rights groups won in federal district court — but then Texas attorney general Greg Abbott appealed, and he won a temporary stay.

Which means that as of last Friday, doctors who perform abortions must have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of the clinic.

The rule is part of a package of restrictions passed into law this past summer.

Ken Lambrecht leads Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

He says doctors are still scrambling to get the credential, and a dozen clinics have had to cancel abortion services.

Lambrecht described the difficulties for doctors working at the Planned Parenthood in Waco.

“There are only three hospitals within 30 miles of Waco, Texas. One is a Baptist-affiliated hospital which has now turned us down twice, and we continue to apply there. One is a Catholic hospital, and the third is in a small county 28 miles away from Waco, and they have an anti-choice board of directors and won’t return our phone calls.”

Now the abortion groups have asked the Supreme Court to let doctors without the credential to continue doing abortions for now, until the entire case is argued in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Marni Evans of Austin had an appointment for an abortion last Friday, and it was cancelled at the last minute because of the new law.

She says she and her fiancé both work for themselves and aren’t financially stable right now.

“After a lot of soul searching, we decided that we want to start a family someday but that we just can’t do it right now. Because of Thursday’s ruling, that decision was taken out of our hands.”

Evans says if she can’t get another appointment in Texas quickly, she will travel out of state to get the abortion.

But she knows that many women don’t have that option.

“The decision for me or for any woman to have an abortion is not easy. It is very complicated.”

Twelve out of 36 abortion clinics in Texas have stopped offering abortions because of the new rule.

Advocates are most concerned about access to abortion in rural West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General said in a statement that Abbott will continue to defend the law before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Abbott’s office has until next Tuesday to respond to the emergency appeal.

Justice Antonin Scalia handles emergency appeals from the Fifth Circuit.

He can single-handedly grant or deny the emergency appeal, or refer it to the entire Supreme Court. 

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...