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SCOTUS Blocks Texas Abortion Law; May Soon Get Voter ID Appeal

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 15, 2014 9:59 AM

We've got two big pieces of news on the Supreme Court front, both involving issues of national importance: abortion and voting rights.

The biggest development has to be the Supreme Court's decision to vacate parts of a Fifth Circuit opinion that allowed Texas' new abortion law to go into effect; the law would effectively force all but a few abortion clinics in the state to close. The issue, and appeal, are likely to make it to the Court on the merits.

Meantime, back at the Fifth Circuit, the court allowed the Texas voter ID law to go into effect, despite the district court's finding that the law had a discriminatory purpose. That too will likely head to the High Court at some point.

The Abortion Appeal

The Supreme Court's one-page order, released Tuesday evening, blocked parts of the Fifth Circuit's ruling, which would have allowed Texas' abortion law to go into effect. The law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and requires clinics to meet ambulatory surgical standards.

The order vacated the Fifth Circuit's opinion as it applied to the admitting privilege requirement for two clinics in McAllen and El Paso. It also vacated the part of the opinion that applied generally to all clinics: the surgical-center requirement.

Thirteen clinics are now set to reopen, according to The New York Times.

This likely won't be the last the Court will hear about the controversial Texas abortion law: As the Times notes, Justice Stephen Breyer stated in a dissent from a denied stay in a parallel challenge to the law last year that he expected the admitting privileges case to return to the Court. On Thursday, the Fifth Circuit denied en banc review.

The Voter ID Appeal

This one is a bit less of a surprise: Last night, the Fifth Circuit allowed another controversial Texas law, the voter ID law, to go into effect. The ruling was unsurprising because of the handful of recent Supreme Court orders that all pointed in the same direction as the Court's Purcell v. Gonzalez: Preserve the status quo.

In fact, the Fifth Circuit's opinion states specifically that the Supreme Court "has repeatedly instructed courts to carefully consider the importance of preserving the status quo on the eve of an election." Judge Gregg J. Costa reluctantly concurred for the same reason.

And, as you might expect, a press release from the Brennan Center for Justice, issued immediately after the ruling, said that the plaintiffs would immediately appeal to the Supreme Court.

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