Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt


Filed On

Apr 2, 2014

Decided On

Jun 27, 2016

Learn More

http://reproductiverights.org/en/case/whole-womans-health-v-lakey

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging two provisions in HB 2: the admitting privileges requirement as applied to two specific clinics—Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso, as well as the requirement that every abortion clinic meet the same building requirements as ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs).

Plaintiffs argue that the admitting privileges requirement effectively gives local hospitals veto power over the McAllen and El Paso clinics’ ability to provide abortion care to women in the Rio Grande Valley and in West Texas respectively because hospitals in Texas have broad discretion to set the criteria for granting admitting privileges and can thereby grant or refuse privileges on the basis of idiosyncratic rules and regulations.

None of the doctors working in the McAllen clinic were able to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. One doctor in the El Paso clinic was able to obtain temporary admitting privileges that expired in May 2014. No doctors in the El Paso clinic have been able to obtain admitting privileges effective beyond May 2014.

The Complaint notes that the McAllen clinic is the only licensed abortion facility in the Rio Grande Valley and that absent relief from the court, the McAllen clinic—which was forced to close in March 2014 in the wake of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Abbottwill be unable to resume provision of medical services, leaving women in the Rio Grande Valley without an abortion provider in their region. The closest provider would be in Corpus Christi, which is more than 150 miles from McAllen.

The Complaint further notes that the El Paso clinic is the only licensed abortion facility in West Texas. Absent relief from the court, the El Paso clinic would not be able to provide medical services to women in a large swath of Texas, leaving a clinic in San Antonio as the sole abortion clinic in West Texas. As such, women in El Paso would have to drive 550 miles to obtain abortion care in San Antonio.

STATUS

On August 29, 2014, a federal district court blocked portions of the law; the court ruled that the ASC requirement was unconstitutional and that the admitting privileges requirement as applied to the clinics in McAllen and El Paso was likewise unconstitutional because they “create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion.”

Texas appealed that ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and on October 2, 2014, the Fifth Circuit stayed the district court’s ruling, allowing both the ASC and admitting requirements to go into effect. As a result, all but eight clinics in Texas immediately were forced to close their doors.

On October 14, 2014, however, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the Fifth Circuit’s decision, thus blocking Texas from enforcing the admitting privileges as applied to the McAllen and El Paso clinics, and blocking Texas from enforcing the ASC requirement.

On June 9, 2015, the Fifth Circuit upheld the admitting privileges and ASC requirements in HB 2, with two exceptions. It exempted the McAllen clinic from the ASC requirement (until another provider opens up in the area) and exempted Dr. Lynn from the admitting privileges requirement when he is working at the McAllen clinic.

On June 29, 2015, the Supreme Court stayed the Fifth Circuit’s ruling to give plaintiffs an opportunity to ask the Court to hear the case by filing a petition for writ of certiorari. The Court granted cert on November 11, 2015.

On June 27, 2016, the Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, ruled that the admitting privileges and ASC requirements constitute an undue burden in violation of Planned Parenthood v. Casey and are unconstitutional.

KEY DOCUMENTS

**last updated June 28, 2016


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