[JURIST] Federal appeals court judges heard arguments Wednesday on a restrictive Texas abortion law that critics say would close more than half the state’s remaining abortion clinics. A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] is reviewing the law [HB 2], which requires that abortion clinics must have hospital-like settings for surgeries. Some of the law’s effective requirements include that clinics be at least 7,000 square feet and abortion practitioners have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Texas had 40 licensed abortion facilities before the state passed restrictions in 2013. The number has since dropped by half, and critics argue that the number would drop to eight, at most, if the requirement takes effect.
Texas reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] supporters and opponents have a protracted history [JURIST news archive] of battling in the state and federal courts. In October the US Supreme Court [official website] placed a hold on the law that would force several abortion clinics to close. Earlier that month the Fifth Circuit partially stayed an injunction [JURIST report] blocking enforcement of HB 2. In April the Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website] announced [JURIST report] its filing of a lawsuit against HB 2. The Fifth Circuit had, a month prior, upheld [JURIST report] these two provisions on a challenge from Planned Parenthood [advocacy website]. In November 2013 the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] to allow HB2 to remain in effect while under review by the Fifth Circuit. The bill was signed [JURIST report] by Governor Rick Perry in July 2013.