SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that he has joined a “friend-of-the-court” brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down two provisions of a 2013 Texas law severely limiting access to safe abortion services.
While Texas lawmakers claimed they intended the law to protect women’s health, the medical evidence presented when the law was enacted shows that the provisions of the law actually place women’s health at greater risk by reducing access to safe abortion services.
Ferguson joined 11 other states in filing the amicus brief: New York, the lead author, as well as California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia. Washington and the other filing states’ purpose in filing this brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole is “to ensure the availability of safe, medically sound abortion services within their borders.”
The Supreme Court is deciding whether to take up the case, which involves the specific issue of what standard of review should be used to evaluate the Texas law. Where constitutional rights are at stake, the Supreme Court has held that courts have a duty to review legislative fact-finding, not just take a legislature’s statements at face value. The amicus brief argues that if courts fail in that duty and instead defer to legislative reasoning even when it conflicts with the evidence, Americans may be subject to regulations that jeopardize, rather than protect, health and safety.
Texas enacted a statute requiring that any physician performing an abortion must have active admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the site of the abortion, and that any facility in which abortions are performed must meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers. While the stated legislative intent was to improve health care for women, medical evidence showed that the law would reduce women’s access to safe abortion services.
The law has already shuttered about half of Texas’s abortion clinics. If the remaining two provisions go into effect, fewer than 10 could continue to operate. These clinics would all be concentrated in urban areas, leaving tens of thousands of women without access to their constitutionally protected right to abortion services.
There is no specific timeline on which the Supreme Court must decide whether to take up the case, which is on appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit based in New Orleans.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov