Supreme Court Refuses to Block Texas Abortion Restrictions

A 5-4 vote means that a third of the state's clinics will close

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Eric Gay / AP

Phil Thiltrickett, an opponent of an abortion, holds a rosary as he prays outside a Planned Parenthood Clinic, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, in San Antonio

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Texas can enforce a law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital — a measure that has led more than a third of the state’s clinics to stop providing abortions, according to Planned Parenthood. The justices voted 5-4 to leave the provision in effect, the Associated Press reports.

The case remains on appeal at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The law will remain in effect until that court hears arguments, most likely in January. Justice Stephen Breyer said that he expects the issue to return to the Supreme Court once the appeals court issues a final ruling.

The law requires abortion doctors to have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Since most abortions are done at clinics as outpatient procedures, many doctors who perform abortions did not previously have — or need to have — hospital privileges nearby.

12 abortion providers in Texas say they have tried to obtain hospital privileges for their doctors, but so far none of the hospitals have responded to the requests. Those clinics can no longer offer abortions, so at most 20 facilities that perform abortions are open in a state of 26 million people. All of those facilities are in metropolitan areas, and there are none in the Rio Grande Valley along the border with Mexico. Currently, only six out of 32 abortions clinics in Texas qualify as ambulatory surgical centers.

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry signed the restrictions into law this year after Democratic Senator Wendy David made a last-minute effort to kill the measure by filibustering.

Texas women undergo an average of 80,000 abortions a year.