What is about bills labeled “HB2”? In Texas, state lawmakers approved an “HB2” a while back that would all but end the right to a safe, legal abortion for Texas women. Now the eight justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on that law. As Ian Millhiser of Think Progress explains, it will be a momentous ruling:
“The Texas law at issue in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the case current pending before the Supreme Court, is the culmination of this strategy by abortion opponents. Masterminded by Americans United for Life, a sophisticated group that drafts model legislation for state lawmakers eager to restrict access to abortion, Texas’ HB2 imposes expensive architectural and other requirements on abortion clinics and often-difficult-to-obtain credentialing requirements on abortion providers.
On the surface, HB2 appears to be a rather ordinary series of health regulations. It’s defenders argue that HB2’s requirement that abortion clinics comply with the costly standards Texas imposes on “ambulatory surgical centers,” for example, will make these facilities safer for women by bringing them into compliance with standards that are already imposed on many other facilities that perform surgeries.
If a court digs just a few inches below the surface, however, it rapidly becomes clear that the the law imposes potentially crippling burdens on abortion clinics, often with no apparent health benefits whatsoever. The ambulatory surgical center requirement, for example, applies even to clinics that perform no surgeries all at — many clinics only offer medication abortions, which are induced by pills taken orally.
Before HB2, Texas had 40 licensed abortion clinics. If the law takes full effect, a trial judge wrote that “only seven facilities and a potential eighth will exist in Texas that will not be prevented . . . from performing abortions.”
A decision upholding HB2 would likely endanger these remaining abortion clinics as well, because it is almost certain that states like Texas would try to push the envelope even further if they scored a big victory in the Supreme Court. Once the courts permit states to enact sham health laws whose real purpose is to restrict abortion, the only limit on such restrictions may be lawmakers’ ability to pass clever laws. A decision upholding HB2 could allow abortion opponents to turn packs of wolves loose in abortion clinics, so long as those wolves are dressed in sheep’s clothing.