DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas abortion providers asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to hear their challenge to the state’s Republican-backed restrictions on abortions that they contend are aimed more at shutting clinics than protecting women’s health.
If the Supreme Court hears the appeal, it would be one of the most anticipated cases of the court’s next term, which starts in October. The nine justices are likely to decide by the end of the year whether to hear the case, meaning oral arguments could come in early 2016 with a ruling by the end of June.
“We have to understand that what happens in Texas won’t stay in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, a plaintiff in the case.
A U.S. appeals court in June upheld the main provisions of the law including one requiring clinics to have certain hospital-grade facilities even for abortions induced by medication.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an anti-abortion Republican, will file a response giving the state’s views on whether the Supreme Court should hear the case. Paxton sees the law as one to protect “the health and safety of women and ensure abortion clinics in Texas meet basic standards,” his office said.
Texas, the largest Republican-controlled U.S. state, has been at the forefront of regulations restricting access to abortion.
In June, the Supreme Court granted a request by abortion providers to put a temporary freeze on the ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, suspending the so-called ambulatory surgical center requirement.
Before Texas passed the law in 2013, there were 40 licensed abortion facilities in the state. The number has since dropped by about half. Advocates said the total would be reduced to 10 if the ambulatory surgical center requirement takes effect.
The state says its rules improve patient care. Opponents say they would force clinics into costly and needless renovations aimed at closing them down.
Abortion providers are also challenging a provision in the 2013 law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of a clinic.
It has been almost a decade since the Supreme Court decided a major abortion-related case. In 2007, it ruled 5-4 to uphold a federal law banning a late-term abortion procedure. The high court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 but some states over the years have passed laws aiming to restrict abortions.
The U.S. Supreme Court also is deciding whether to hear another abortion case involving a Mississippi law that contains an admitting privileges provision similar to the one in Texas.
Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington