WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear arguments in a challenge to a Texas law that would impose new restrictions on abortion providers.
Such a move was widely expected. The justices, like many others, are grappling with the types of restrictions that can be imposed on clinics that perform abortions and how they can fit within Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that allowed abortion to be legal throughout the United States. In late May, the justices issued an unsigned order blocking the requirement that abortion clinics be certified by a physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
The case — Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt — concerns two provisions, one that imposes stricter standards on all abortion clinics, and another that allows doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital.
The first provision requires that abortion clinics must meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers and that doctors performing abortions be able to admit a minimum number of patients for medical care while they are on call.
The second section of the law prevents clinics from performing abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Supreme Court struck down a similar provision in 2011, saying the admitting privileges provision was unconstitutional. The challenge in the present case includes the same doctors and clinics who are involved in the previous challenge.
Although the justices in the past have been able to distinguish between ambulatory surgical centers and outpatient clinics and allow restrictions to proceed while ensuring the health of women seeking abortions, Monday’s announcement marks the first time the justices have signaled they would not do so in this case.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in the majority opinion in the 2011 case, said he was willing to consider cases that “concern the licensing of abortion clinics.” Since then, however, state legislatures have tried to pass increasingly stringent regulations on abortion clinics, increasing the likelihood that the court will have to address restrictions placed on abortion providers.
Liz Moyer, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that the move “demonstrates that Justice Kennedy will not let the state have its way on this issue.”
She added: “Simply put, restrictions on abortion clinics cannot stand, no matter how burdensome the demand for this procedure.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed an amicus brief in the case, which, like the earlier case, is part of the center’s larger push to defeat regulations like those in Texas.