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.
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.”