WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ordered to keep Texas abortion clinics open while it reviews a lawsuit against the state's strict new abortion law.
The court ordered all abortion providers that would be closed under Texas H.B. 2 starting July 1 should stay open pending its review of the case.
The 2013 law is scheduled to go into effect next month after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld it on June 9. About 12 abortion clinics would close due to the law, leaving open nine across the state.
Under the law abortion facilities must include minimum sizes for rooms and doorways, and meet other structural and ventilation system requirements. Doctors must also have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
In response to a lawsuit brought by three abortion clinics, a federal judge in Austin ruled in August that the surgical center regulation is unconstitutional because it would restrict too many women's access to abortion. Amy Hagstrom Miller, head of Whole Women's Health in McAllen, Texas, an abortion provider and a plaintiff in the case, said many women would opt for dangerous methods that can be used at home if they do not have easy access to a clinic.
Supporters of the surgical center requirement argue it protects women's health.
The Fifth Circuit Court ruled in favor of the Texas law, except where it applies to Whole Women's Health, which is located in the Rio Grande Valley, about 200 miles away from the nearest legal abortion center under the law.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, called on the Supreme Court to halt the enforcement of H.B. 2 pending its review of the constitutionality of the law.
"As the Fifth Circuit once again turns a blind eye to the devastating consequences of Texas' clinic shutdown law, it is imperative that the Supreme Court step in," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, on June 19.
"No woman should be forced to cross state lines or travel hundreds of miles for essential health care. And millions of Texas women cannot simply wait for months as this legal battle continues, with severely restricted options for safe and legal abortion services in the state.
"Once again, the Supreme Court needs to halt this underhanded, unjustified and extremely harmful law."
Prior to the passage of HB 2, there were 40 abortion providers in the state, a number that dropped down to about half in October when the Supreme Court blocked the legislation.