The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a major case on whether a Texas law makes it too difficult for women in the state to get abortions.
A decision in the case could come as late as next June, just months before the presidential election.
The disputed Texas law, which Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed in 2013, requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and requires providers to comply with the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers. A federal appeals court upheld the law, saying it did not impose an undue burden on a woman's right to get an abortion.
The petitioners in the case say the law will lead to the closures of 75% of the state's abortion clinics, leaving only about 10 clinics open across Texas.
The law “would delay or prevent thousands of women from obtaining abortions, and lead some to resort to unsafe or illegal methods of ending an unwanted pregnancy,” the petitioners argue in court documents.
The state, however, argues that it's trying to protect women's health, and even if the law takes effect, every metropolitan area with an abortion facility will still have one.
“Texas' admitting-privileges and ambulatory surgical-center (ASC) requirements raise the standard of care for all abortion patients,” the state argues in court documents.
The Supreme Court had barred the Texas law from taking effect again while it considered whether to hear the case.
The high court didn't say Friday whether it would hear a similar case out of Mississippi.
In that state, the law at issue also requires abortion physicians to have admitting privileges at local hospitals in order to handle potential complications from abortion procedures.
Mississippi says it is trying to protect women's health, and bring the requirements for physicians performing abortions in line with those for others performing other outpatient procedures.
But the state's lone abortion clinic says the law was designed to shut it down. The clinic argues that the law is impossible for its doctors to follow because no local hospital will consider their applications for admitting privileges.
Two lower courts have ruled in favor of the Mississippi abortion clinic, saying the law poses an “undue burden” on a woman's right to get an abortion because it would effectively close the state's only abortion clinic.
In 2007, a divided Supreme Court upheld a federal law that bans an abortion procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion, opening the door to new limits on abortion.