Rul­ing may close most abor­tion clin­ics in Texas

Law up­held in fed­eral court also bans nearly all ter­mi­na­tions af­ter 20 weeks. Op­po­nents plan to ap­peal to the Supreme Court.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By James Queally james.queally@la­times.com Times staff writer Maria L. La Ganga con­trib­uted to this re­port.

A fed­eral ap­peals panel up­held nearly all of the pro­vi­sions of a Texas abor­tion law Tues­day that would force the clo­sure of most of the state’s abor­tion clin­ics.

The rul­ing, which ef­fec­tively af­firmed the 2013 pas­sage of House Bill 2 by the Repub­li­can-dom­i­nated state Leg­is­la­ture, puts all but seven or eight Texas clin­ics at risk of per­ma­nently shut­ting, abor­tion rights ad­vo­cates said, vow­ing to ap­peal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It’s a trav­esty that a state the size of Texas will only have eight safe, legal abor­tion clin­ics. The 5th Cir­cuit has once again put their po­lit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy above the law,” Heather Busby, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Pro-Choice Texas, said in a state­ment.

The wide-rang­ing House Bill 2 was de­signed to limit abor­tion ac­cess and re­strict when they could be con­ducted. The U.S. 5th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peal’s three­mem­ber panel was unan­i­mous in up­hold­ing the bill’s tough­est pro­vi­sions.

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott, in a state­ment, praised the court’s de­ci­sion as a “vin­di­ca­tion of the care­ful de­lib­er­a­tion by the Texas Leg­is­la­ture to craft a law to pro­tect the health and safety of Texas women ... while pro­tect­ing our most vul­ner­a­ble — the un­born.”

Un­der the law’s pro­vi­sions, nearly all abor­tions af­ter 20 weeks of preg­nancy are banned, ex­cept in cases of rape or in­cest with a mi­nor; and abor­tion-in­duc­ing drugs must be ad­min­is­tered in the pres­ence of a doc­tor, which would re­quire most pa­tients to visit clin­ics on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions.

In ad­di­tion, doc­tors who per­form abor­tions must have ad­mit­ting priv­i­leges at a hos­pi­tal within 30 miles of the clinic, and all clin­ics are re­quired to have the same equip­ment and build­ing re­quire­ments as am­bu­la­tory surgery cen­ters, even if the clin­ics only ad­min­is­ter oral an­tiabor­tion drugs.

The Supreme Court had said states may reg­u­late the prac­tice of abor­tion but should not put an “un­due bur­den” on women seek­ing to end a preg­nancy. With that guide­line in mind, U.S. Dis­trict Judge Lee Yeakel last sum­mer struck down the sur­gi­cal cen­ter re­quire­ments statewide and the ad­mit­ting priv­i­leges re­quire­ment for two fa­cil­i­ties.

Tues­day’s de­ci­sion over­turned Yeakel’s rul­ing, but the panel made an ex­cep­tion for a McAllen fa­cil­ity on the grounds that it is the only abor­tion fa­cil­ity in the area.

“Once again, women across the state of Texas face elim­i­na­tion of safe and legal op­tions for end­ing a preg­nancy, and the de­nial of their con­sti­tu­tional rights,” Nancy Northup, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Rights, said in a state­ment. “The Supreme Court’s prior rul­ings do not al­low for this kind of broad­side leg­isla­tive as­sault on women’s rights and health­care.”

Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Pax­ton, who cham­pi­oned the bill while he was a mem­ber of the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said in a state­ment: “Abor­tion prac­ti­tion­ers should have no right to op­er­ate their busi­nesses from sub­stan­dard fa­cil­i­ties and with doc­tors who lack ad­mit­ting priv­i­leges at a hos­pi­tal.”

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