Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call

Supreme Court blocks Texas law from shuttering abortion clinics

State legislation requires centers to get hospital-level upgrades, admitting privileges at nearby hospitals

The Supreme Court has blocked Texas from enforcing key parts of a 2013 law that would close all but a handful of the state's abortion facilities.

In a 6-3 vote, the justices suspended a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Texas to enforce a rule that would make of the state's abortion clinics spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades in order to remain open.

In so doing, the United States’ highest court granted a request filed by abortion providers as part of a courtroom battle that has passed through various jurisdictions.

The appeals court earlier suspended an August decision by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who found that the new state requirements were less about safety than about making access to abortion difficult.

Texas appealed Yeakel’s ruling. The 5th Circuit is still considering the constitutionality of the measure but had allowed it to go into effect.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling supersedes that. The justices’ order also said that a provision requiring abortion practitioners to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic could not be enforced for clinics in McAllen and El Paso, cities near the border with Mexican. The provision will be in force in the rest of the state.

Abortion rights groups have said the regulations are unnecessary and are a veiled attempt to shut abortion clinics. Supporters of the law say the rules will reduce complications and improve patient care.

Three of the courts conservative justices — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — said they would have allowed the law to go into effect in full.

Abortion rights groups have said the measures would have shuttered all but seven clinics in the state, which is home to more than 26 million people.

Wire services

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