Texas abortion clinics sue to undo laws dating back decades

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas abortion providers who won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2016 that blocked a new wave of anti-abortion efforts are now using that decision to try to undo laws on the books for decades in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

In suing over anti-abortion measures that stretch back 20 years in some cases, Texas clinics are putting a new spin on what has become a recurring cycle in GOP-controlled states — legislatures passing new abortion laws, followed by opponents rushing to court before they can take effect.

Mississippi, which has just one abortion clinic, was similarly sued in April over a slate of longstanding abortion laws.

Abortion providers say the Supreme Court opened the door when it struck down a sweeping 2013 Texas law that put stricter demands on doctors and clinics, ruling that the benefits didn't justify the obstacles to access. The abortion provider Whole Woman's Health, in a new lawsuit filed in Austin, now wants that same standard applied to older laws.

More than half of Texas' abortion clinics shuttered under the 2013 law, and five years later, only three have reopened, Whole Woman's Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said.

"This is a different strategy," Hagstrom Miller said. "Some of the things we're challenging are 10, 20 years old."

Among the old Texas laws being newly challenged are requirements that only doctors and not clinic staff can perform abortions, licensing standards, required ultrasounds in which the image of the fetus is shown to the patient and 24-hour waiting periods.

A spokesman for Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the Supreme Court has already upheld similar requirements and called the lawsuit part of a "radical pro-abortion agenda." Earlier this year, Paxton's office asked lawmakers to consider expanding the attorney general's office to enforce abortion laws.

"Abortion providers have been complying with the laws being challenged in this case for years. They are common-sense measures necessary to protect Texas women from unhygienic, unqualified clinics that put women's lives and reproductive health at risk," Paxton spokesman Marc Rylander said.

The Texas lawsuit joins a flurry of challenges to abortion laws in federal courts nationwide. Last week, Planned Parenthood asked a federal judge to block an Arkansas law that restricts how abortion pills are administered, arguing the restrictions make the state the first in the U.S. to effectively ban that form of abortion.

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