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An amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole makes a powerful case that the abortion restrictions Texas adopted in H.B. 2 contrast starkly with broad-based, bipartisan national efforts to increase patient access to care, improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs. In fact, the brief says, H.B. 2 would raise the cost of care with no benefit to patients by restricting abortion services to fewer and unnecessarily expensive facilities and reducing the number of physicians who may provide such services. The Court should “cast a very skeptical eye on a policy based on the odd proposition that increasing the cost of care and decreasing access to care will improve women’s health,” it says.
This amicus brief was filed by the National Partnership for Women & Families and signed by 21 of the nation’s leading health policy experts. It notes that diverse stakeholders – from health policy scholars and government leaders to business leaders, physicians, hospitals, insurance companies and patient advocates – agree that to optimize health outcomes and be sustainable, the U.S. health care system must deliver high-quality care to more people more efficiently. Numerous public and private sector initiatives aim to transform the way health care is paid for and delivered to achieve that goal. But the Texas abortion restrictions are fundamentally out of step with the national drive to make high quality care more accessible and less costly, the brief argues.
“Certainly, women’s privacy, dignity and ability to make deeply personal decisions about their health are at stake in this case,” said National Partnership President Debra L. Ness. “An adverse ruling here would shutter nearly all the abortion clinics in Texas, and other states would surely follow. The Texas law is an outrageous overreach by opponents determined to block women’s access to abortion care. But it also replaces medical standards with politicians’ ideology in order to deny women care. In this case, the Supreme Court has a chance to protect women’s health and to strike down a law that would erode the fundamental tenets of good health care in our nation.”
The national trend shifts care out of higher-cost settings and encourages patients to obtain, and practitioners to provide, high-quality medical care at more accessible and cost-effective sites, the brief says. But the Texas provisions would force care into unnecessarily high-cost settings and layer medically unnecessary burdens on health care providers.
“The Texas restrictions cannot be reconciled with consensus efforts now underway that aim to strengthen the U.S. health care system by improving the quality and availability of care,” said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, the National Partnership’s director of reproductive health programs. “This law would force abortion care – a common medical procedure with an exemplary safety record in office and clinic-based settings – into fewer, more expensive facilities, and reduce the provider pool for absolutely no medical reason. It makes unnecessarily high-cost care the only option for patients – exactly the type of perverse policy incentive that health care leaders are working to eliminate in order to achieve a 21st century health care system.”
Ropes & Gray LLP served as outside counsel on the brief. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 2, 2016.
The National Partnership’s amicus brief is available here.