Federal Judge Nixes Key Parts of Texas Abortion Law

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 30 2014 10:32 AM

Federal Judge Nixes Key Parts of Texas Abortion Law

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Students from the University of Texas hold signs during a rally in favor of abortion rights.

Photo by Jana Birchum/Getty Images

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel has saved 19 licensed abortion clinics across Texas from having to shut their doors. In a decision Friday, the federal judge ruled the state can’t enforce a key part of an abortion law that required clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, including a minimum number of rooms and having facilities for complicated surgeries. The requirement “burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United States Constitution for the 40 years since Roe v. Wade,” Yeakel wrote, according to the Texas Tribune.

There are only eight clinics in Texas that are also licenses as ambulatory surgical centers and they’re all in the large metropolitan areas of Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth, details the Austin American-Statesman. Advocacy groups had argued that under the new law almost 1 million women of reproductive age would be at least 150 miles from an abortion clinic, notes Reuters. Although the state argued that the new rule would improve care, the state’s hospital association argued it was unnecessary because any woman who is having complications from an abortion can always go to an emergency room.

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Judge Yeakel also struck down another part of the law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges in a hospital within a 30-mile radius of the clinics where they work. Several clinics have reportedly shut down because of that requirement. With the stringent demands on abortion clinics, Texas had reached a “tipping point” in the number of restrictions it placed on women considering other measures that had been imposed by the state, including a 24-hour waiting period and requiring all women to have a sonogram before an abortion.

The strict regulations were inside a large anti-abortion bill that was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in 2013 and is part of a trend by anti-abortion advocates to increase regulations on clinics. “More than two dozen states have imposed surgery-center-type standards of widely varying stringency,” reports the New York Times. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is seen as a strong contender to succeed Perry, immediately vowed to appeal the ruling. A PDF copy of the ruling is available here.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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