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Court blocks Texas abortion law

Splitting five to four, the Supreme Court on Monday afternoon temporarily blocked Texas from enforcing two new requirements that abortion clinic operators say will force many of them to close.  The order will keep those rules on hold at least until the Court decides whether to rule on their constitutionality.   The restrictions had been due to go into effect Wednesday.

One provision requires all doctors performing abortions in the state to have the right to send patients to a nearby hospital, while the other requires all abortion clinics in the state to have facilities equal to a surgical center.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld both provisions.

In a one-paragraph order, the Justices did not explain why they were postponing the law.  If review of the law is denied later, the order will be lifted; if review is granted, it will stay in effect until a final ruling emerges.  The actual petition for review has not yet been filed by the doctors and clinics involved.

The Justices in favor of delay were not named in the order, but it did take five votes to issue that postponement.  That means it was supported by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Sonia Sotomayor.

The four Justices who noted that they would refuse any delay were Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.

The Court is currently considering a somewhat similar case from Mississippi, involving the hospital admissions privileges requirement.  In that state, enforcement of the requirement apparently would lead to the closing of the last remaining clinic — one still operating in Jackson.  That law has been blocked by the Fifth Circuit, the same court involved in the Texas case.

The Court may act on the Mississippi case as soon as Tuesday, when it issues the final orders of this Term.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Court blocks Texas abortion law, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 29, 2015, 4:06 PM),