Part of Anti-Abortion Law Ruled 'Unconstitutional' Reinstated By Appeals Court

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a federal judge's ruling that deemed a section of Texas' anti-abortion law 'unconstitutional.'

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Photo by Mary Tuma

Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said a requirement forcing abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of where the procedure is preformed is, “without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus." The suit, brought on by a coalition of reproductive health organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, is meant to protect abortion access in Texas. The admitting privileges requirement alone would strip one in three women from the ability to obtain an abortion, the groups say. State Attorney General Greg Abbott promptly filed an appeal shortly after Yeakel's ruling.

Today, a three-judge panel on the conservative-leaning appellate court granted Abbott's request to lift the temporary injunction placed on a section of the law, allowing it to take effect. In their ruling, the judges minimize the problems abortion doctors face while trying to secure hospital admit privileges– an obstacle underscored several times by health professionals during the House Bill 2 debate– and refute Planned Parenthood's estimates of how many women will be affected. The judges contend the the plaintiff couldn't establish a case for "undue burden" on women and agreed the state essentially knows best, as it has an interest in regulating the medical field.

Among the three George W. Bush-appointed Republican, female judges on the panel sits anti-choice conservative Judge Priscilla Owens, who previously sought to tighten a parental notification law for minors seeking abortions in Texas. Owens hoped to force minors to “exhibit an awareness that there are issues, including religious ones, surrounding the abortion decision," according to NARAL Pro-Choice. The requirement was subsequently rejected by a majority of conservatives on the Texas Supreme Court, writes NARAL.

Reproductive health advocates vow to keep battling the restrictions.

“This fight is far from over," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement following the decision today. "This restriction clearly violates Texas women’s constitutional rights by drastically reducing access to safe and legal abortion statewide.  If Texans showed America one thing during the historic protests against this law this summer, we demonstrated that Texans value women’s health — and that is why we will take every step we can to protect the health of Texas women in the wake of this ruling.”

Read the Fifth Circuit Decision here via Scribd: Fifth Circuit Stay Ruling

 

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