TX Abortion Clinics to Stay Open as New Restriction is Ruled Unconstitutional

Yesterday afternoon, a federal judge ruled that one of the HB 2 abortion restrictions was unconstitutional and issued a partial injunction on another. According to Whole Woman's Health, the state of Texas has already filed its notice of appeal.

The first restriction would have required abortion practitioners to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. According to U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, the restriction would have resulted in "a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus" and created an "undue burden to her."

The second restriction affected medical abortion, a combination of a mifepristone and misoprostol pills. Practitioners commonly use a lower-dose drug regimen to induce abortion based on medical evidence. The new law would require doctors to abide by an outdated FDA requirement, which requires women to visit the clinic four times.

Yeakel upheld the medical abortion restriction except in situations when there is a risk to the health and safety of the mother.

The decision is a mixed bag for pro-choice advocates. The admitting privileges requirement, which was scheduled to go into effect tomorrow, would have shuttered one-third of Texas abortion clinics. The application process for admitting privileges can be time-consuming and difficult, and many religious hospitals would have rejected the applications.

However, the medical abortion restriction forces practitioners to administer a more dangerous, less effective dose of pills. Moreover, it would require women to make additional trips to the clinic, extending the amount of time they would have to take off from work, as well as find housing and childcare.

The current FDA requirements have not been updated since 2000.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott will likely appeal the decision, and the case will be sent to the Fifth Circuit Court of U.S. Appeals.

According to Heather Busby of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas:

We hope that on appeal, the Fifth Circuit will put the best interests of the women of Texas above personal and political beliefs and uphold the lower court's ruling to strike the admitting privileges requirement. These regulations are not only an undue burden on women, but endanger the health and safety of the people of this state.

Moreover, the 20-week ban was slated to go into effect today, while the ambulatory surgical center requirements are scheduled to become active law in less than one year. The latter would close all but five abortion clinics in Texas, despite evidence that shows that abortion clinics are extremely safe and well-regulated.

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, Whole Woman's Health, and other clinic owners in Texas. During the hearings, evidence from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project showed that up to 22,000 women would have been denied abortions in 2014 if the admitting privileges restriction was implemented.

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