A pro-life supporter holds a placard as protesters line the railing on the second floor of the rotunda of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, July 12 as the state Senate considers a bill to restrict abortion. (CNS photo/Mike Stone, Reuters)
Today a federal judge ruled that part of a Texas abortion
law passed this summer is unconstitutional.
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
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contend that those guidelines are outdated and medically unnecessary.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 lawincluding a ban on
abortions after 20 weeks and the requirement that all abortion facilities meet
state standards for ambulatory surgery centerswere 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.