Texas Department of State Health Services clarifies contentious issue of HB 2 enforcement

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When the Supreme Court ruled last week that certain provisions of House Bill 2, Texas’ perpetually challenged Pro-Life Omnibus Bill, would be enjoined at least until the Court reconvened after a summer recess, uncertainty lingered regarding exactly which requirements of the law were placed on hold.  SCOTUS’ ruling was vague by virtue of the order’s brevity (one paragraph, to be exact), leaving supporters and opponents of the law alike uncertain of whether both contended provisions had been enjoined, or only the ambulatory surgical center (ASC) requirements.  Lawyers involved in bringing the appeal to the Supreme Court have even stated that they were uncertain to which provisions the stay applied.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), in agreement with the Texas Attorney General’s office, has clarified that the admitting privileges requirement of the law, requiring abortionists to have credentials at a nearby hospital in the event they need to transport a patient from the abortion mill, will remain intact pending further review from SCOTUS.  A DSHS spokeswoman noted that abortionists who committed abortions without possessing admitting privileges would still be cited and referred to the Texas Medical Board for action.  However, two abortion mills (in McAllen and El Paso, respectively) were excepted from this requirement by the Fifth Circuit in June, so their immunity to the requirement will persist.

In bringing the June ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to SCOTUS, the abortion lobby sought to have both Fifth Circuit-approved provisions overturned.  Both rules demand higher abortion industry safety standards for women, but abortionists oppose the requirements because compliance demands an investment of time, money, and effort on their part. The statement from DSHS suggests that at least partial protection will be extended to Texas women during the SCOTUS recess through enforcement of the admitting privileges rule.

The DSHS response is a positive step for Texas as we await further action from the Supreme Court.  However, the Center for Reproductive Rights, predictably unnerved by DSHS’ intention to uphold Texas law in the wake of the vague ruling, indicated that they will likely ask the SCOTUS to explicitly clarify which provision(s) they intended to enjoin until September.

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