In a controversial move, the Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked enforcement of new Texas abortion rules that could force more than half of the state's remaining abortion clinics to shut their doors.
Justices ruled that currently, the state of Texas may not enforce health protection laws that would have put all but nine of the state's 18 abortion offices out of business, the New York Times reports.
The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. voting to deny the stay.
At issue is whether the state may require abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety codes as other ambulatory surgical centers and require abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Other parts of the law took effect in 2013, forcing half of the state's 41 abortion clinics to close.
The temporary stay of Senate Bill 5 will allow abortion clinics in Texas to remain in operation until the justices decide whether they will hear an appeal from the abortion industry, which argues the law's provisions would unduly restrict a woman's access to abortion-on-demand.
The AP notes that the court's decision to block the regulations is a "strong indication that the justices will hear the full appeal, which could be the biggest abortion case at the Supreme Court in nearly 25 years."
Advocates for abortion rights expressed relief over the Supreme Court's stay, calling it a "temporary victory."
"This case presents a very, very dramatic impact in the type of restrictions on access to abortion clinics that we've seen over the past few years," Nancy Northup, the president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the New York Times. "If this case is not taken by the Supreme Court, it's going to allow a continuation of the closing of clinics by these sneaky, underhanded methods."
Conversely, pro-life leaders and anti-abortion advocates say the decision puts women at risk.
"Women and babies are being denied protections with the Supreme Court blocking pro-life legislation," Lila Rose of Live Action said, Life Site News reports. "Contrary to what big abortion organizations would have us believe, the possible closure of abortion facilities is due to the refusal of these corporations to adhere to sensible and ordinary medical precautions. We look forward to the day that both the legislature and the Courts use their power to protect the most vulnerable among us."
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, also lamented the fact that the "U.S. Supreme Court was swayed, not for the first time in a week, by illogical arguments."
"By actively lobbying against common sense regulations that would make sure women have access to 'safe, legal and rare' abortions, Planned Parenthood and their allies are making a mockery of women's health care," Hawkins said.
"The abortion industry cares only for their bottom line, and women and their prenatal children are merely dollar signs in their business cycle," she added.