WASHINGTON — If abortion facilities fail to meet established safety standards, the solution is not to lower those standards, said Catholic leaders in a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of General Counsel filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Feb. 1 on behalf of the national bishops’ conference and the Texas Catholic Conference.
Abortion businesses’ “failure to comply with health and safety laws” should not be a reason to strike down the laws, the brief said.
“There is ample evidence in this case that hospital admitting privileges and ambulatory surgical center requirements protect women’s lives and health. When such requirements are not enforced, abuses detrimental to women’s lives and health arise.”
The brief commented on the Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt case set to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in early March.
The case involves a Texas law passed in 2013, which requires abortion centers to meet the same safety and health standards as ambulatory surgical centers. The law drew a filibuster from then-state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat, who became the focus of national publicity from pro-abortion-rights organizations.
After the law was passed, the number of abortion centers in the state fell by more than half.
Abortion advocates say the standards are too strict and will shut down most abortion facilities in the state.
However, supporters of the law argue that regulations are necessary, given recent abuses found at abortion centers. These include failures to ensure a sterile environment, to prevent conditions that attract rodents and to prevent failures to maintain equipment like a cardiac defibrillator.
In 2013, Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter after babies were killed after birth at his clinic. A police raid of his clinic had revealed horrific sanitary conditions.
The Feb. 1 brief also argued that the admitting-privileges requirement ensures that physicians are competent. It helps ensure that physicians provide continuous care in the event of complications and not abandon their patients, the document said.
In addition, it cited the 1993 Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which allows for regulation of abortion to protect the life and health of women.
Other partners to 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.
In June 2015, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the admitting-privileges requirement in the Texas law, which had been struck down by a lower federal court. A decision by the Supreme Court is expected in the case later this year.