(This story was updated at 5:35 p.m. ET.)
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a major abortion case that could influence how states regulate abortion.
The case, Whole Woman's Health v. Cole, questions whether a Texas law makes it too difficult for women in the state to get the procedure. A decision could come as late as June, just months before the presidential election.
The Texas law requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and providers to comply with the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. A federal appeals upheld the law, saying it didn't impose an undue burden on a woman's right to get an abortion.
The petitioners in the case say the Texas law will lead to the closures of 75% of the state's abortion clinics. Stakeholders in the debate quickly reacted to the news Friday afternoon.
“It is time for the Supreme Court to step in and stop states from chipping away at women's access to safe and legal abortion care,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, during a call with reporters.
She said the law would prevent women from obtaining abortions and may lead some to use unsafe methods of terminating their pregnancies. The state had 44 facilities providing abortions before the law passed. If the law is allowed to take full effect, that number could drop to 10 facilities, Hagstrom Miller said.
The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Osteopathic Association have sided with the abortion clinics in the case. The groups said in a court filing that abortion is “an extremely safe medical procedure and no medical evidence suggests that abortion would be safer if performed in an [ambulatory surgical center] setting.”
The state, however, argues that it's trying to protect women's health, and even if the law does take effect, every metropolitan area that now has an abortion facility will still have one.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the Texas law “common-sense” and said it's meant to “elevate the standard of care” in a statement Friday.
“The advancement of the abortion industry's bottom line shouldn't take precedence over women's health, and we look forward to demonstrating the validity of these important health and safety requirements in Court,” Paxton said in the statement.
Scholars with the conservative Heritage Foundation said in a statement that the law protects women from substandard conditions or practices that could harm them.
The Supreme Court had barred the Texas law from taking effect again while it considered whether to hear the case. The Supreme Court has not yet scheduled a date to hear the case, but it might happen in March, said Stephanie Toti, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the case on behalf of Texas women's health providers.
The case follows a 1992 Supreme Court decision which established that states may impose regulations so long as they don't impose an “undue burden” on a woman's right to get an abortion. The court defined an “undue burden” as “substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”
Ten states, including Texas, require that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals, Toti said. Six states have requirements, similar to the one in Texas, that abortion providers meet the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers, she said.