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US top court to rule on abortion case, a first since 2007

The US Supreme Court is set to rule on a controversial Texas law that many say is bent on closing down abortion clinics. Parts of the statute already in effect have seen more than half of the state's clinics close.

The US Supreme Court agreed to hear its first abortion-related case since 2007 on Friday. The suit involves a Republican-backed law in Texas that requires, among other things, hospital-grade facilities for any clinics wishing to perform the procedure.

While that part of the bill has not yet gone into effect, critics say it's aimed at shutting down clinics which offer abortions and making it more difficult for women to access them. Supporters argued, however, that ensuring top-quality facilities is essential for women's health.

"The advancement of the abortion industry's bottom line shouldn't take precedent over women's health, and we look forward to demonstrating the validity of these important health and safety requirements in court," said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican.

'Playing politics with women's health'

The abortion providers, who are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, fired back by saying that not only was the law a thinly-veiled ploy to restrict access to reproductive health care - it was an effective one. In a statement, the center said that after the first part of the bill went into effect in 2013, more than half of the state's 42 abortion clinics closed, leaving 19 open in a state of more than 27 million people.

Nine of the remaining clinics would have to close if the hospital-grade stipulation goes into effect, they said.

"Playing politics with women's health isn't just wrong. It's dangerous for many women who will have no safe and legal options left where they live, and may be forced to take matters into their own hands," said Nancy Northrup, head of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The last time the Supreme Court heard a case relating to abortion rights was in 2007, when it upheld a federal statute banning late-term abortions with a 5-4 vote. The judges have already provisionally weighed in on the Texas law, granting a request by the abortion providers in June to put a hold on an appeals court ruling allowing the law to go into full effect.

es/cmk (Reuters, AP)

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