A federal judge ruled Monday that new Texas abortion restrictions place an unconstitutional burden on women seeking to end their pregnancies, keeping open at least a dozen abortion centers across the state while officials appeal.
Because of the potential for complications during medical procedures, the law requires all abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their facilities. Planned Parenthood and pro-abortion groups argued the provision would force up to one-third of the state’s 38 abortion centers to close.
The provision, District Court Judge Lee Yeakel wrote, “does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman’s health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose office argued the law protects women and the life of the fetus, almost immediately filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
“I have no doubt that this case is going all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” Abbott said during a campaign stop in Brownsville, Texas. Abbott is the frontrunner for the Republican nominaiton to replace Gov. Rick Perry, who will not seek reelection next year.
Federal judges in Wisconsin, Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama have similarly ruled against requiring admitting privileges. But the legal question at work in Texas will give the 5th Circuit the nation’s first case directly examining the constitutionality of such a provision under the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal.
Pro-abortion activists say Roe v. Wade not only made abortion legal but guaranteed access to it. Some Texas abortion centers aren’t within 30 miles of hospitals or use visiting abortionists who can’t obtain admitting privileges. Some hospitals simply don’t want to enter the fray by negotiating with abortionists, and others refuse to grant privileges because they are run by religious organizations. Requiring admitting privileges will force dozens of abortion centers to close, illegally restricting access to the procedure, opponents say.
Supporters, like Live Action, argue “requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges to a hospital is hardly extreme. Abortion, like any other medical procedure, has risks, especially the further a woman gets into her pregnancy.”
In addition to striking down the admitting privilege requirement, Yeakel also relaxed new regulations on the chemical abortion drug RU-486. The judge upheld the state’s right to regulate the procedure, including requiring doctor supervision and follow-up appointments. But he ruled the law’s demand for strict adherence to the Food and Drug Administration label unduly restricted doctors’ ability to tailor dosages to each woman.
Other key parts of the law weren’t part of the lawsuit. Starting today, all abortions after 20 weeks are banned in Texas. By October 2014, abortion centers must upgrade their buildings to meet the same standards as other surgical centers.