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Off to SCOTUS for HB2

If they want to hear it.

Abortion is back before the U.S.A Supreme Court, and the justices could signal by the end of June whether they are likely to take up the biggest case on the contentious subject in nearly a quarter-century.

If the court steps in, the hearing and the eventual ruling would come amid the 2016 presidential campaign.

The court is considering an emergency appeal from abortion providers in Texas, who want the justices to block two provisions of a state law that already has forced the closure of roughly half the licensed abortion clinics in the state. Ten of the remaining 19 clinics will have to shut their doors by July 1, without an order from the Supreme Court.

[…]

The case could be attractive to the justices because it might allow them to give more definition to the key phrase from their last big abortion ruling, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in 1992. States generally can regulate abortion unless doing so places “an undue burden” on a woman’s right to get an abortion.

“Courts have been fumbling for years about what does it mean to be undue under Casey,” said Priscilla Smith, a Yale Law School professor and defender of abortion rights.

Some abortion opponents also see the case as a strong candidate for Supreme Court review. “The likelihood of this case getting to the Supreme Court is very high and I think that’s a good thing,” said Mike Norton, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian-oriented public interest law firm.

The justices blocked the two provisions once before, in November 2014 while the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was weighing whether those parts of the law violate a woman’s right to an abortion. The appeals court upheld the provisions on June 9 and has since refused to put its ruling on hold while the clinics ready their appeal to the Supreme Court.

In 2013, four justices — enough to hear an appeal — said the high court probably would want to weigh in. In an earlier phase of the same case, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the court probably would take up the controversial provisions.

Since then, a different set of judges from the same appeals court has prevented Mississippi from enforcing its own admitting privileges requirement because doing so would close the last abortion clinic in the state. In that case, the court said that Mississippi could not force women to cross state lines to get an abortion.

See here for the background. It’s either SCOTUS, with all the risk that entails, or the status quo. Not much of a choice, but here we are. We’ll know soon enough what they choose to do.

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  1. […] here and here for the background. It sure has been a consequential few days for SCOTUS, hasn’t it? The good […]