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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday afternoon to put a hold on court rulings that have reduced the number of abortion clinics in Texas.
Four of the court's conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — dissented.
A state law passed in 2013 required clinics providing abortion services to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and it required doctors providing the services to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Women's groups asked the Supreme Court to put an emergency hold on the effect of the law while they prepare an appeal to challenge its constitutionality. They say the law, which takes effect Wednesday, would force all but nine abortion clinics in the state to close.
"Overall, there would be a net reduction in abortion facilities of more than 75% in a two-year period," they argue in their court filings. And the clinics that remain open would find it hard to expand their services.
So for now, enforcement of the Texas law is on hold and will remain so until the court decides whether to hear the full appeal.
Texas had urged the court to let the law take effect.
"An abortion facility will remain open in each area where an abortion facility will close," the state contended, meaning women in Texas "will not have to travel any materially greater distances to obtain an abortion."
The state argued that the requirements are medically necessary to protect the health of patients. But the women's groups say the law will burden a woman's right to end her pregnancy.
A federal appeals court upheld the law but modified its application to the clinic in McAllen, because it was the only facility providing abortion services in a large part of southwestern Texas.