Court ruling on abortion not to affect Waco clinic

The Supreme Court ruling will not change anything for the Waco Planned Parenthood. The abortion clinic remains close, however, the rest of the business will continue to operate.Carlye Thornton | Lariat Photo Editor
The Supreme Court ruling will not change anything for the Waco Planned Parenthood. The abortion clinic remains close, however, the rest of the business will continue to operate.
Carlye Thornton | Lariat Photo Editor

By Hannah Neumann
Staff Writer

After a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, Texas abortion clinics previously closed under restrictions by a Texas law have reopened.

This will not be the case for the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Waco, however, which prior to its license relinquishment was the sole abortion-offering facility in the city.

The five-sentence ruling late Tuesday blocked parts of the law that required clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards. While this will help certain clinics reopen, this was never what kept Planned Parenthood in Waco from offering the procedure, said Natalie Kelinske, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas.

“Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas didn’t have any centers that had to stop providing because of that,” Kelinske said. “Yesterday’s Supreme Court rulings do not change anything for Waco because of the initial provision of this law which requires providers to have admitting privileges, which went into effect last fall and is when Planned Parenthood in Waco stopped providing abortions.”

Kelinske said the other portion of Planned Parenthood is still open, providing preventive care, and will continue to fight for their right to offer abortion.

“It was a really important ruling and we are very glad that the court ruled the way they did,” she said. “We are hoping that this dangerous law, the entire law, will be overturned completely, eventually, but for now we are still fighting for women’s access to safe, legal abortions across the state.”

The high court only suspended the restrictions for now pending appeals, and offered no explanation for the decision.

The suspension will remain until the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has a decision.

“It has been decided that while the decision is pending, the law will be set aside regarding the requirement that abortion facilities meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers,” John Pisciotta, director of Pro-Life Waco, said. “This means the facilities can reopen because the law will not be enforced until we have a decision, which will take months.”

Pisciotta said he has confidence that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold the laws enacted by the Legislature, as it has done consistently in the past.

“I wish the laws would be enforced during this interim period,” he said. “The problem is, whenever pro-life laws are enacted, attorneys go to work to try to get them set aside.”

Pisciotta said the main issue at hand is how dramatically different the views are between the pro-life and pro-choice advocates.

“I won’t sugar-coat this,” he said. “I am disappointed that this decision was made by the Supreme Court even though the law was made by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor. We have dramatically opposing views from those who think a women’s right to obliterate the life of a baby growing in their womb is part of a good society.”

Women seeking abortions kept phone lines busy at the Routh Street Women’s Clinic in Dallas, where a former staff of 17 people is down to single digits after the procedure was halted by the law earlier this month.

“Some of them will come back, and some of them probably aren’t,” said Ginny Braun, the Dallas clinic director.

Attorneys for the state have argued that Texas women wouldn’t be burdened by fewer abortion facilities, saying nearly nine in 10 women would still live within 150 miles of a provider. But law opponents say that leaves nearly a million Texas women embarking on drives longer than three hours to get an abortion.

Women in Waco now have to travel to Austin or Dallas for abortion services.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.