U.S. Supreme Court lets Texas pro-life law stand

In a move that will spare countless innocent lives, the United States Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request by Planned Parenthood to block a pro-life law from going into effect while the law is being challenged in court. The 5-4 decision lets stand – at least temporarily – a provision requiring that doctors who perform abortions at a clinic have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted that blocking the law “would flout core principles of federalism by mandating postponement of a state law without asserting that the law is even probably unconstitutional,” and he added that “accepted legal standards … do not include a special ‘status quo’ standard for laws affecting abortion.” In other words, no requirement dictates that the “status quo,” under which abortion providers are not required to have admitting privileges, must stand.

Meanwhile, Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the dissenting opinion, based his opposition in part on the fact that the provision “leaves ’24 counties in the Rio Grande Valley … with no abortion provider[.]’” Indeed, according to Planned Parenthood, the law will result in one third of Texas abortion providers stopping abortion services due to non-compliance with the law.

Ironically, even the federal Department of Health and Human Services counts hospital admitting privileges among basic requirements for certain programs (for example, see here and here). Indeed, hospital admitting privileges for doctors practicing at clinics is not something unheard of; rather, it is a basic health provision designed to protect the lives and well-being of patients.

Yet Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has claimed that the law requiring such privileges for abortion providers “block[s] women in Texas from getting a safe and legal medical procedure[.]” Richards’s disregard for a basic safety provision, however, shows that Planned Parenthood’s concern is hardly for the safety of women.

Thankfully, the Court’s decision to allow the law to go into effect is a victory for the health and lives of women and their unborn babies.

As Texas Right to Life Director Elizabeth Graham said, “[t]his ruling signals that Texas is on the verge of a decisive legal Pro-Life victory. The recent closures of abortion clinics, even if temporary, prove that … [the law] does have a major impact in protecting women and their unborn children from substandard care at abortion clinics. We celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s approval of the law staying in effect until this absurd legal battle is over.”

The full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case in January.

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