Ruling by 5th Circuit Court Reverses Abortion Access for One Third of Texas Women

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rescinded the permanent injunction U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel had placed on Monday that ruled the admitting privileges provision in House Bill 2 (HB 2) placed an undue burden on those seeking abortions in Texas. This ruling from the highly conservative court does not come as a surprise.

Now that the request filed by Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately after Yeakel's ruling Monday was approved, the provisions of HB 2 can take effect immediately. It means that up to 15 of the remaining 32 abortion clinics in Texas may not open their doors tomorrow, blocking thousands in need of medical attention. In a press statement released by Planned Parenthood, they state that these areas include areas surrounding Fort Worth, Harlingen, Killeen, McAllen, and Waco.

The upside is that this is only one more step on a long road which is sure to go to the Supreme Court. In comparison to the 5th Circuit, Texans stand a much better chance receiving a just ruling.

In the written opinion, judges Priscilla R. Owen, Jennifer Walker Elrod, and Catharina Haynes, ignore some pretty overwhelming facts. Fact is, they are closing half the abortion clinics in Texas, but ignore how this establishes an undue burden on those with few means. They also state that "there is a substantial likelihood that the state will prevail in its argument that Planned Parenthood failed to establish an undue burden on women seeking abortions or that the hospital-admitting privileges requirement creates a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion." This is despite clear evidence to the contrary revealed during court proceedings showing the admitting privileges provision would block 22,286 Texans from accessing legal abortion.

The entire press statement from Planned Parenthood below:

BREAKING: Appeals Court Blocks Abortion Access for One-Third of Texas Women
Appeals Court Allows Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions - Planned Parenthood Pledges to Continue to Fight for Patients

Austin, TX - A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's request to lift the permanent injunction entered by a federal district court Monday, allowing a measure that will make safe and legal abortion virtually impossible for one-third of Texas women in need of access.

The requirement that physicians who provide abortions obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital is expected to cause at least one-third of the state's licensed health centers that currently provide abortion to stop offering the service immediately.  As a result, abortion will no longer be available in vast stretches of Texas, including areas surrounding Fort Worth, Harlingen, Killeen, McAllen, and Waco.  In striking down the measure as unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the admitting privileges requirement has "no rational relationship to improved patient care" and also "places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion."  The only part of Judge Yeakel's injunction that remains is allowing the use of medication abortion for a woman between 50 and 63 days of pregnancy if she has a medical need for that procedure.  

Statement from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
"This fight is far from over. 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."

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, was jointly filed on September 27 on behalf of more than a dozen Texas health care providers and their patients by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Texas law firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.

These dangerous and unconstitutional provisions were part of a package of legislation signed by Governor Rick Perry on July 18 following a series of special legislative sessions, but opposed by 80 percent of Texas voters, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Medical experts in Texas and across the country, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Hospital Association, publicly opposed provisions in the law because they provide no medical benefit to women and will actually jeopardize women's health and safety.    

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