Court Lets Texas Enforce Its Strict (and Maybe Unconstitutional) Abortion Rules Right Away

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 31 2013 9:19 PM

Court Lets Texas Enforce Its Strict (and Maybe Unconstitutional) Abortion Rules Right Away

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Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D) announces her intentions to run for Texas Governor at the W.G. Thomas Coliseum in Haltom City on October 3, 2013 in Haltom City, Texas

Photo by Stewart F. House/Getty Images

Some late-breaking news out of Texas on the abortion front: A federal appeals court ruled that the bulk of the Lone Star State's strict new abortion restrictions can take effect immediately, a decision that will mean that at least a dozen of the state's clinics won't be able to perform the procedure beginning Friday morning. Here's the Associated Press with more:

A panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital can take effect while a lawsuit challenging the restrictions moves forward. The panel issued the ruling three days after District Judge Lee Yeakel said the provision serves no medical purpose [and ruled key parts of the law were unconstitutional].
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In its 20-page ruling, the appeals court panel acknowledged that the provision "may increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider and decrease the number of physicians available to perform abortions." However, the panel said that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that having "the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate" a law that serves a valid purpose, "one not designed to strike at the right itself."

The order is only temporary, but will remain in place until the court can hold a full hearing, something that may not happen until early next year. The fight over the law—which also includes a ban on abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, among other provisions—captured the nation's attention and catapulted state Sen. Wendy Davis into the national spotlight this summer after she led an epic filibuster that ran out the clock on a special session Gov. Rick Perry called in hopes of passing the bill. Perry then called a second session, which Davis and her allies were unable to derail.

Slate will have more on the ruling shortly.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.