Federal judge strikes down Texas abortion regulation
POSTED: Friday, August 29, 2014 - 4:16pm
UPDATED: Friday, August 29, 2014 - 6:04pm
A federal judge on Friday struck down new requirements for Texas abortion facilities — a decision that could have shuttered all but a few abortion clinics in the state. The standards were set to go into effect Monday.
The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of several abortion providers, asking U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of the District Court for the Western District of Texas to block the last provision of House Bill 2, which would have required abortion facilities to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Those include minimum sizes for rooms and doorways and having pipelines for anesthesia.
The law, which was passed by the Republican-led Legislature last year, included several strict abortion regulations that are already in effect.
In his ruling, Yeakel wrote that the law's ambulatory surgical center requirements "burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United States Constitution for the 40 years since Roe v. Wade."
Advocates of abortion rights quickly celebrated Yeakel's decision, admonishing the state's Republican leadership for attempting to "eradicate access to safe, legal and timely abortion care."
"There was no justification for the medically unnecessary regulations in HB2, no demonstrated problem with safety in our state’s already well-regulated abortion clinics," said Heather Busby, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
Lauren Bean, spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office, said it would "seek immediate relief" from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Supporters of the law say it is about women’s safety. But during five days of trial earlier this month, the clinics argued that the final provision would have created an unconstitutional barrier for women seeking access to abortion, leaving no abortion providers south or west of San Antonio. State attorneys contended that there wasn’t enough evidence that the rules create an “undue burden” for the majority of women seeking abortions.
Six existing abortion facilities in Texas, all in major cities, meet the requirements, and Planned Parenthood is expected to soon open an additional clinic in Dallas.
Abortion providers previously unsuccessfully challenged the law’s admitting privileges provision, which requires all doctors who perform abortion procedures to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic.
The current lawsuit also asked the court to suspend the admitting privileges requirement for two clinics that shut down because of it: Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso.
In his decision, Yeakel ruled in favor of granting the two clinics an exemption from this provision of the law.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/08/29/federal-judge-strikes-down-texas-abortion-regulati/.