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Texas' Abortion Law Is Headed to the U.S. Supreme Court

The aftermath of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling last week reinstating the requirement that doctors performing abortions in Texas have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic was swift and sweeping. By the next morning, a third of the state's abortion clinics had closed or stopped performing the procedure.

That much was predictable. So was this morning's announcement by Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards.

"We're asking the Supreme Court to stop Texas' dangerous and extreme law from taking effect because your rights -- your very ability to make your own medical decisions -- should not depend on your ZIP code," she said in a news release.

See also: Texas' Abortion Restrictions Will Go Into Full Effect After All

Specifically, Planned Parenthood and its co-plaintiff, the Center for Reproductive Rights, have filed an emergency application asking the nation's highest court to stay the implementation of the Fifth Circuit's ruling. (Their other option was to appeal for an en banc hearing in front of the entire 5th Circuit, rather than the three-judge panel, but they apparently didn't like their chances.)

In order to prevail, Planned Parenthood and CRR will have to clear a couple of hurdles. Under Supreme Court rules, their application for emergency review has to go through Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch abortion opponent who oversees the 5th Circuit. Scalia can dismiss or otherwise act on it by himself, or he can refer it to the full court, though Planned Parenthood would be able to appeal a dismissal with a justice of their choice.

In order to grant a stay, there has to be a good chance that the court will agree to review the case, that a majority of justices will overturn the lower court's ruling, and that the appellant will be irreparably harmed if no stay is granted.

That first check box is all but guaranteed. As Guttmacher Institute policy analyst Elizabeth Nash told USA Today last week, the fact that the 5th Circuit allowed Texas' law to be implemented, which was not the case when similar measures were challenged in North Dakota, Wisconsin, Alabama and Mississippi, virtually guarantees it.


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