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Abortion Providers Ask Supreme Court to Review Texas Rules

  • Reuters

FILE - Abortion rights supporters rally on the floor of the State Capitol rotunda in Austin, Texas on July 12, 2013.

FILE - Abortion rights supporters rally on the floor of the State Capitol rotunda in Austin, Texas on July 12, 2013.

Texas abortion providers asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to hear their challenge to the state's restrictions on abortions that they contend are aimed more at shutting clinics than protecting women's health.

A U.S. appeals court in June upheld the main provisions of the Texas abortion law including one requiring clinics to have certain hospital-grade facilities even for abortions that are induced by medication.

The U.S. Supreme Court's next term begins in October.

"We're hopeful that the Supreme Court will take a stand, hear our case, and remind lawmakers that women's health is not a game," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of abortion provider Whole Woman's Health, a plaintiff in the case.

Texas, the largest Republican-controlled U.S. state, has been at the forefront of regulations restricting access to abortion. Many of its laws are often copied by other socially conservative states.

In June, the Supreme Court granted a request by abortion providers to put a temporary freeze on the ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, putting on hold the so-called ambulatory surgical center requirement.

Before Texas passed the abortion law in 2013, there were 40 licensed abortion facilities in the state. The number of clinics has since dropped by about half, with advocates saying the total would be reduced to eight, most in major cities, if the ambulatory surgical center requirement takes effect.

The state says its rules reduce complications and improve patient care. Opponents say they would force many clinics into costly and needless renovations aimed at driving them out of business and eliminate access to women living in rural areas.

Abortion providers are also challenging a provision in the 2013 law that has taken effect requiring doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of a clinic.

The Texas Hospital Association, representing more than 400 hospitals, called the requirement unnecessary because women experiencing abortion complications can go to an emergency room to be treated.