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Supreme Court has allowed abortion providers to challenge Texas' abortion ban law

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For a second time, the Supreme Court has left in place a Texas law that bans most abortions. It's the most restrictive such law in the country. The court also ruled that abortion providers can file suit to try to stop it.

Joining us now is Ashley Lopez from member station KUT in Austin.

Hey, Ashley.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: Hey, there.

KELLY: I'm curious how abortion providers are responding to this ruling. Are they hopeful now that they can challenge the constitutionality of the law?

LOPEZ: Yeah. You know, abortion providers say this is good news because so far, the law has been really hard to stop in federal courts. But the path forward is very narrow. The court limited who abortion providers can actually sue as they continue to try to block the law. And of course, this law could eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court again. And as we know, the court has signaled that it's less concerned these days about state laws that violate the landmark abortion rights ruling in Roe v. Wade as the Texas law does.

KELLY: Yeah. One of the unique things about the Texas law that people may know is that it lets private citizens sue anyone involved in providing an abortion, and they could collect thousands of dollars. What did the Supreme Court say about that?

LOPEZ: Well, they didn't seem overly concerned because they said it can stay in effect. Marc Hearron, who is one of the attorneys representing abortion providers in this case, told reporters today that this ruling basically allows bounty hunters to continue to sue providers in Texas, and that raises serious concerns.

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MARC HEARRON: This is a dark day for abortion patients and for physicians and providers. It is also a dark day for anyone who cares about constitutional rights. The implications of today's decision will be profound and will reverberate for years to come.

LOPEZ: Hearron said this decision means that any state can violate their citizens' constitutional rights in areas beyond abortion if they just allow private citizens to enforce the law instead of the state.

KELLY: Well, and tell us a little more about reaction there in Texas today from people on either side of the abortion debate.

LOPEZ: Well, anti-abortion groups in Texas say they're grateful the court decided to keep the law in place primarily. You know, Texas Right to Life said in a statement that the court is saving lives by keeping the ban in place. Abortion providers in Texas, however, say they're worried about how much longer they can stay open. Because so few people realize they're pregnant by six weeks, they only have been able to provide abortions to about 20- to 30% of the patients they used to serve.

KELLY: Now, the law took effect about three months ago. It looks like it will stay in place indefinitely. But practically speaking, Ashley, what does today's ruling mean for women in Texas?

LOPEZ: Well, for people who have the means, they will still have to travel to another state to get the procedure. But many states around the country report being inundated with Texas patients, so wait times are getting longer in those states. But Amy Hagstrom Miller with Whole Women's Health, which is a lead plaintiff in one of the cases before the Supreme Court, says most people can't do that.

AMY HAGSTROM MILLER: Whether they can't afford to travel, whether they're parenting and navigating multiple jobs, whether their immigration status may put them at risk for travel, Texas is going to feel the effects of denying people this health care for decades.

KELLY: And one more point before we let you go, Ashley. This ruling comes as the Supreme Court also considers that separate case for Mississippi that bans abortions after 15 weeks. Did stakeholders in Texas have anything to say about that today?

LOPEZ: Anti-abortion advocates - for them, this is a culmination of decades of work to make it harder to get a legal abortion in the U.S. For them, all of these signals from the Supreme Court are seen as a victory. And abortion rights advocates are obviously worried. They say U.S. abortion rights are in grave danger, and these are just some signals of that.

KELLY: Ashley Lopez of member station KUT in Austin Thank you.

LOPEZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ST. VINCENT SONG, "SAVIOR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.