WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away an emergency application asking it to block a Texas law that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.The decision was effectively 5 to 4 and split along ideological lines.
The effect of the ruling, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote for the four dissenters, was to leave 24 counties in the Rio Grande Valley without abortion clinics. “It may,” he added, “substantially reduce access to safe abortions elsewhere in Texas.”
Abortion rights groups and clinics said the law served no medical purpose and was forcing a third of the state’s 36 abortion clinics to stop performing the procedure, preventing some 20,000 women a year from access to safe abortions.
State officials told the court that the law, which requires that doctors have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of where they perform abortions, protects public health by “fostering a woman’s ability to seek consultation and treatment for complications directly from her physician.”
The officials added that the impact of the law was modest, saying that more than 90 percent of women seeking abortions in the state will still live within 100 miles of an abortion clinic.