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Obama Administration Urges Supreme Court to Strike Down Texas Abortion Law

FILE - The Obama administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on a controversial Texas abortion law. Here, a group gathers Oct. 5, 2015, in front of the courthouse to weigh in on abortion.

The Obama administration is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a recently passed abortion law in the southern state of Texas that has resulted in the closing of nearly half the clinics in the state.

In a brief submitted to the court Monday, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said "hundreds of thousands of Texas women would be forced to travel great distances" in order to access the nearest abortion facility.

A district court, which granted an injunction of the law that was later overturned, found that under the new guidelines, just seven facilities in the state would be eligible to provide abortion services to Texas women.

Under the Texas requirements, abortions can only be provided in facilities that meet the standards of ambulatory care centers. Abortion doctors also must have "admitting privileges" at hospitals no more than 48 kilometers away from their clinics.

"The closure of abortion facilities that occurred in light of the admitting privileges requirement had, the court found, already increased the number of Texas women of reproductive age living more than 200 miles [320 kilometers] away from a Texas clinic from 10,000 to 290,000 — and the additional closures that would be caused by the ambulatory surgical centers requirement would increase that number to 750,000," Verrilli said in the brief.

"The challenged requirements do not produce actual health benefits," he said.

The Texas law also makes mandatory a 24-hour waiting period between the time of the initial appointment and when the procedure can be done. Doctors also are required to perform ultrasounds, as well as display and describe the images to the patient.

"Those requirements are unnecessary to protect — indeed, would harm — women's health," Verrilli said.

Texas officials argue that their restrictions are in the interest of protecting women's health.