- (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to block Texas' sweeping abortion law, which may close down as many as one-third of the abortion clinics in the Lone Star State.
In a five to four decision, the Court decided late Tuesday afternoon to not block the implementation of the abortion law commonly known as HB 2, which is presently undergoing a lawsuit from pro-choice groups.
The majority was comprised of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Clarence Thomas, and Anthony M. Kennedy; Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a concurring opinion with the majority.
"We may not vacate a stay entered by a court of appeals unless that court clearly and 'demonstrably' erred in its application of 'accepted standards'," reads the Scalia opinion.
"The dissent promises to show that the Fifth Circuit committed such error when it granted a stay in this case … but that promise goes unfulfilled."
Dissenting from the majority were Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who wrote the minority opinion, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
Two of the Justices in the majority were appointed by former President George W. Bush and two of the Justices in the minority were appointed by President Barack Obama.
Last summer, Texas Governor Rick Perry called a special session of the state legislature to pass a sweeping pro-life bill that would, among other things, increase regulation of abortion providers.
Supporters of the legislation argued it was necessary to have abortion clinics held by the same standards as hospitals while critics argued it was a way of forcing abortion facilities to close.
The initial special session gained national attention, especially via the filibuster of State Senator Wendy Davis, which lasted about 12 hours.
While the first special session failed to conclusively pass any legislation, Gov. Perry called a second session which did successfully pass House Bill 2.
Not long after Perry signed the bill into law, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others filed a lawsuit against the legislation.
In late October, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yerkel ruled that portions of the bill were unconstitutional, while letting components, like the ban on abortions after the fetus is 20-weeks old, go into effect.
Not long after Yerkel's decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court decision, allowing the law to stand for the time being.
The Supreme Court's refusal to block the law reaffirmed the Fifth Circuit's decision earlier this fall. Pro-life and pro-choice groups sounded off on the news Tuesday evening.
Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, said in a statement that the Supreme Court's decision was a "victory" for the pro-life movement.
"The recent closures of abortion clinics, even if temporary, prove that HB2 does have a major impact in protecting women and their unborn children from substandard care at abortion clinics," said Graham.
"We celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court's approval of the law staying in effect until this absurd legal battle is over."
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, referred to the Supreme Court's refusal to block the law as detrimental to women's health.
"A decision like this one from the Supreme Court should send a chill down the spine of everyone in this country who believes medical decisions should be left in the hands of doctors and patients and not judges or politicians," said Hogue in a statement.
"NARAL Pro-Choice America and our affiliates and members around the country will fight every day until we stop laws like this one from undermining quality health care for women in Texas and across the country."