Monday, June 27, 2016

Last Call For Messing With Texas

The Supreme Court finished off the 2015-2016 term today with a 5-3 decision finding Texas's TRAP laws unconstitutional.

Passed in 2013, the law said clinics providing abortion services must meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers. And it required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. 
Since the law was passed, the number of clinics providing abortion services in Texas dropped to 19 from 42. Opponents said that number would fall to ten if the Supreme Court upheld the law. 
The Center for Reproductive Rights called the law "an absolute sham," arguing that abortion patients rarely require hospitalization and that many patients simply take two pills. 
Justice Stephen G. Breyer in writing the majority opinion said "neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution."

The question now turns to states with similar laws restricting abortion clinics through regulation of hospital admission privileges and surgery center layouts, most notably Ohio, where these same laws are threatening to shutter Cincinnati and Dayton's last two remaining abortion providers. Think Progress breaks down the beatdown:

As Breyer notes, the admitting privileges requirement is a solution in search of a problem. As the trial court determined in this case, “[t]he great weight of evidence demonstrates that, before the act’s passage, abortion in Texas was extremely safe with particularly low rates of serious complications and virtually no deaths occurring on account of the procedure.” Accordingly, “there was no significant health-related problem that the new law helped to cure.” 
Indeed, when Texas’ solicitor general was “directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.” 
A significant reason why the admitting privileges requirement imposes such a heavy burden on abortion providers is that many hospitals require doctors to actually admit a certain number of patients in order to maintain those privileges. But abortion doctors rarely have a reason to do so. One clinic, for example, performed over 17,000 abortions over a decade, and “not a single one of those patients had to be transferred to a hospital for emergency treatment, much less admitted to the hospital.” Thus, Breyer writes, “doctors would be unable to maintain admitting privileges or obtain those privileges for the future, because the fact that abortions are so safe meant that providers were unlikely to have any patients to admit.” 

I don't see how John Kasich's TRAP laws survive in Ohio in the wake of Breyer's ruling, and we'll see how it plays out, but the damage has largely already been done as a result.  Texas still will have lost half its abortion providers, as will Ohio.

I'm pretty sure it's a gamble Republicans were willing to take, and we'll just move on to the next set of regulations that red states will come up with to close clinics.

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