Dozens of Groups File Briefs Against Texas Abortion Law
Diverse array of organizations submit 45 briefs to SCOTUS opposing HB 2
By Mary Tuma,
1:10PM, Tue. Jan. 5, 2016
A wide-ranging group of respected organizations, prominent individuals, and government agencies are in consensus: House Bill 2, the draconian multi-part Texas abortion law, is harmful to women.
An unprecedented array of medical professionals, legal experts, social justice organizations, women’s rights groups, religious leaders, economists, more than 160 members of Congress, and even the U.S. Solicitor General filed some 45 amicus briefs this week with the U.S. Supreme Court, opposing the onerous abortion clinic restrictions. Passed in the 2013 legislative session, House Bill 2 imposes four requirements: It bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and forces women to follow outdated protocol when taking abortion medication. It also require doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed, and forces clinics to undergo costly building changes to transform into ambulatory surgical centers – this final rule has yet to go into effect, but if it does, it’s estimated that only 10 clinics will remain in the state.
The Court is expected to hear oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole – the challenge against the latter two provisions of the law, filed by a coalition of abortion clinics – this March. The briefs are meant to persuade the Court to strike down the law in order to protect the health and safety of the 5.4 million reproductive-age women that live in Texas.
“Never before has such a diverse array of organizations and leaders from the fields of medicine, government, law, business, and religion stepped forward to condemn abortion restrictions at the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the legal group representing plaintiffs in the suit, during a press call Tuesday morning. “These briefs present a thorough record of the undeniable damage Texas’ sham law has and will continue to cause, and an indisputable legal argument for why it must be struck down. This deceptive law is an affront to science-based medicine, an insult to women’s dignity, and reflects a total disregard for the rule of law and the rights of millions.”
The extensive list includes leading medical groups, such as the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. They strongly caution that the law isn’t just simply unnecessary but will actually cause harm to women: “Not only are HB 2’s ASC and privileges requirements entirely unnecessary, there is incontrovertible evidence that they are impeding women’s access to quality abortion care,” the groups write.
Attorneys at the Department of Justice, led by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., argue the rules in HB 2 are unnecessary, present substantial obstacles for women seeking abortion, and impose an undue burden. “For many women in Texas, they would create a legal regime in which a real choice about whether to carry a pregnancy to full term 'exists in theory but not in fact,'” they write in their 34-page brief.
And in a first for SCOTUS, more than 100 women in the legal and political field filed briefs sharing their own personal abortion stories without anonymity, stressing the importance of unfettered abortion access. Former state Senator Wendy Davis, who famously filibustered the draconian law on the Senate floor in 2013, shared her experience undergoing two separate abortions due to health complications. On the press call, Davis cautioned that if HB 2 is fully upheld it will likely be replicated in states across this country and “create a condition where women's safety is threatened.”
Opposition came from both sides of the aisle, with the Republican Majority for Choice and its national chairs, former Republican members of Congress, and current and former Republican state officeholders sounding off on the restrictive law. GOP members write, “The challenged provisions of HB 2 intrude upon a private realm reserved to the individual and impose an undue burden on a woman’s liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment."
It’s difficult to expect the state of Texas to take the sweeping opposition into any meaningful consideration – representatives from major medical groups and health professionals continually testified against the bill at the Capitol, warning of the grave and dire impact on the state’s health network as it snaked through the chambers, and were largely dismissed by HB 2 supporters. Hopefully for plaintiffs – and the millions of women that rely on safe, constitutionally protected medical care – the Supreme Court won’t be as callous as to turn a blind eye to the overwhelming number of diverse groups that have made their stance unequivocal: Let HB 2 stand, and women will suffer.
To view the briefs, click here.