Catholic Bishops Back Texas Law Mandating Abortionists Have Hospital Admitting Privileges

By Lauretta Brown | February 2, 2016 | 3:56pm EST
(AP Photo)

( – The Office of General Counsel of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed an amicus curiae brief Monday in a Supreme Court case in support a 2013 Texas law requiring abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital and for abortion facilities to meet ambulatory surgical center requirements.

The Supreme Court announced in November that it will hear Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt - a lawsuit brought by Texas abortion providers against the restrictions.

The friend of the court brief, filed by the bishops along with the Texas Catholic Conference and a diverse coalition of faith-based groups, argues that admitting privileges “ensure physician competency and continuity of care, enhance inter-physician communication and complication management, and support the ethical duty not to abandon patients.”

The brief points out that even the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an association of abortion providers that filed a brief on the opposing side, recommended that “[i]n the case of emergency, the doctor should be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital (no more than 20 minutes away).”

This requirement is more rigorous than Texas’s requirement that the doctor have admitting privileges within 30 miles of the abortion clinic.

The brief also argues that there is a need for such a requirement since in a prior challenge to the Texas hospital admitting privileges law, “Planned Parenthood conceded that at least 210 women in Texas annually must be hospitalized after seeking an abortion.”

The requirement for abortion providers to have ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), the brief argued, was evident from “numerous citations meted out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)” based on its inspections of abortion clinics.

“In the last few years, at least four clinics operated by petitioner Whole Woman’s Health have been cited by DSHS for deficiencies,” the brief stated.

“Are clinics that fail to maintain a sterile environment, that allow conditions conducive to rodents, that do not keep a cardiac defibrillator in working order, and that have been cited for these and many other deficiencies, in any position to argue that that they (and not their patients, who the state wishes to protect) are the victims in this case?” the brief asked, concluding, “The clinics, not the state, are the wrongdoers here.

"There is ample evidence in this case that hospital admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements protect women's lives and health," said the brief. "When such requirements are not enforced, abuses detrimental to women's lives and health arise."

Other groups joining the brief include the National Association of Evangelicals, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

On the opposing side, the Obama administration urged the Supreme Court in a January friend of the court brief to reject the regulations.

"Those requirements are unnecessary to protect - indeed, would harm - women’s health, and they would result in closure of three quarters of the abortion clinics in the state," U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued.

The law's requirements, the brief argued, were unnecessary because Texas abortions are safe and have a low rate of complications.

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