Today a federal judge ruled that part of a Texas abortion law passed this summer is unconstitutional.
Judge Lee Yeakel struck down the portion of the law that requires a physician performing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, saying that the rule placed “an ‘undue burden’ on a woman seeking abortion services in Texas because it necessarily has the effect of presenting a ‘substantial obstacle’ to access to abortion services.” Opponents of the law argue that enforcing the admitting-privileges requirement would lead to the closure of one-third of the state’s abortion facilities.
The ruling came in response to a suit filed by Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers objecting to two portions of the law, which was passed after a legislative debate that included a 13-hour filibuster by Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis and which received widespread national attention over the summer.
In addition to the admitting-privileges regulation, Planned Parenthood also contested the portion of the law requiring that medical abortions be performed according to FDA guidelines. So-called “off-label” abortions have been endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist and are widely performed throughout the US, but do not conform to FDA-approved protocols. The Texas legislation outlaws “off-label” medical abortions, requiring physicians adhere to FDA guidelines; opponents of the law contend that those guidelines are outdated and medically unnecessary.
Judge Yeakel upheld the law’s regulation of medical abortions according to FDA protocol, except in cases where surgical abortion is not a medically safe option in the judgment of a woman’s physician.
Other parts of the Texas abortion law—including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and the requirement that all abortion facilities meet state standards for ambulatory surgery centers—were not contested by Planned Parenthood in the suit. The 20-week ban goes into effect October 29; the facility- standards regulations go into effect next fall.
Shortly after the release of Judge Yeakel’s ruling, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he will appeal the decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.