U.S. Supreme Court rejects Oklahoma abortion case, wants response from Texas

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The Supreme Court took off of its docket, and thus will not decide, a plea by the state of Oklahoma to revive a law that restricts doctors’ use of drugs rather than surgery to perform an abortion with the medication RU-486 and others. Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog reports, Court won’t rule on RU-486 abortions:

Uterus-stateIn a one-sentence order, the Court dismissed as “improvidently granted” the case of Cline  v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice (docket 12-1094).   In issuing other orders, the Court granted no new cases for review.

Meanwhile, a group of women’s health clinics and doctors in Texas asked that the Court at least temporarily a new Texas law that forbids doctors to perform
abortions at a clinic unless those physicians have professional privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of that site.  The Fifth Circuit Court on Thursday allowed that requirement to go into effect, resulting in closing a number of abortion clinics across the state. The application to set aside that order was filed initially with Justice Antonin Scalia, who is the Circuit Justice for the geographic area that includes Texas. He has the authority to decide the issue himself, or share it with his colleagues.

The application is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services v. Abbott (13A452). Justice Scalia immediately asked for the state to respond by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, November 12. The new Texas law also involved a broad restriction on doctors’ option of performing medical abortions with the drug RU-486 and other medications, and that, too, has been allowed to take effect at least in part. The abortion providers’ request to the Supreme Court on Monday, however, did not ask the Justices to take any action on that provision.

The Oklahoma medical abortion case had been granted review last June
by the Court but, at that time, the Court asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify the scope of the 2011 state law that restricted medical abortion procedures.  Last week, the state court answered the questions, saying that the state law was so broad that it would outlaw any abortions in the state using drugs rather than surgery.

The Justices had put their review of the Cline case on hold
until after getting the state court’s reply.   With that in hand, the Court simply chose to end its review of that case without a decision. That makes final the state court’s earlier decision striking down the law. That means that, at least for the time being, lower courts will be left to review the constitutionality of an increasing number of state laws that limit or ban medical abortions.

With the emergency application filed in the Texas case, the Court —
or at least Justice Scalia — has pending for the first time a controversy over a state law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital before they may perform abortions at a clinic or in a doctor’s office. Texas included such a provision in its new anti-abortion law. A federal judge blocked the enforcement of that provision, finding that it would put an unconstitutional burden on the right of women to seek abortions.   The Fifth Circuit Court, however, voted later last week to let that provision take effect.

Justice Scalia’s request to the state of Texas for a response to the application will leave that provision in effect for at least another eight days.

Comments are closed.