The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled late Thursday that Texas can enforce its law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Abortions at about one-third of Texas facilities must cease as of this morning.
The panel of judges issued the ruling three days after District Judge Lee Yeakel determined the provision served no medical purpose and placed an “undue burden” on women. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott made an emergency appeal.
In its 20-page ruling, the 5th Circuit panel said that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that having “the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate” a law that serves a valid purpose, “one not designed to strike at the right itself.”
Thursday’s decision isn’t final, and a different panel of judges likely will take up the case in full in January. But the ruling is a victory for pro-lifers who defended the law as a safety measure for women.
While the legal challenge makes its way through the courts, 12 of the state’s 32 abortion centers don’t have admitting privileges, and complying with the law may be difficult. Some facilities don’t have a hospital within the required 30 miles. For others, nearby hospitals have chosen not to grant admitting privileges because it’s a divisive public relations decision without many business benefits.
Federal judges in Wisconsin, Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama have ruled against requiring admitting privileges. Mississippi is also in the 5th Circuit, and the appeals court left in place a temporary injunction preventing the law from being enforced there. Abbott praised Thursday’s ruling as a “vindication” of Texas lawmakers’ careful crafting of the law.
While it reinstated the admitting privileges requirement, the panel left in place Yeakel’s ruling on abortion drug RU-486, which said the law’s demand for strict adherence to the Food and Drug Administration label unduly restricted doctors’ ability to tailor dosages to each woman.