Fed judge: Texas abortion limits unconstitutional


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist ERIN COKER

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE


Posted on October 28, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 7:16 PM

AUSTIN -- The Planned Parenthood South Austin clinic will continue to offer abortion services.

This comes after U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down part of a new Texas law that would have required doctors who perform abortions obtain hospital-admitting privileges within 30 miles of their practice.

"Had we not gotten this ruling this afternoon, women across the state would have been immediately and directly impacted. We have vast communities in parts of the state that would have no longer had access to these types of services," said Sarah Wheat with Planned Parenthood.

Along with other plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the state, Planned Parenthood warned that the provision of House Bill 2 (HB 2) requiring doctors to obtain hospital-admitting privileges would have forced more than a dozen clinics to stop performing the procedures. That includes Planned Parenthood's South Austin location.

"Patients who depend on us and who would have come to us tomorrow, here at this health center, we would have had to call this afternoon and advise them that they were going to have to look elsewhere," said Wheat.

"I think it's actually more important to provide these women with the other options," Christina Durbin, a supporter of HB 2 said. "But I think if they're going to have abortion legal then women do need to have the highest safety standards possible."

Attorneys for the state argued medical benefits took a back seat to the state's intent to preserve "fetal life." Judge Yeakel ruled the provision placed an unconstitutional burden on women seeking a legal abortion.

Also challenged in the lawsuit were dosing requirements for the abortion inducing drug, RU-486. Physicians said the new requirements are based on outdated and more risky protocols established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration during the 1990s. Those protocols have since been replaced by evidence-based procedures.

Yeakel ruled that part is not unconstitutional, but gave physicians some leeway in situations where there may be a safety risk. State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker), HB 2's author, hinted when the bill passed in July that its fate would be decided in court.

"It just depends on what court district your state is in," Laubenberg told KVUE after the bill cleared the House. "Eventually I do believe it will go up to the Supreme Court."

The state is expected to quickly appeal, and Planned Parenthood will likely return to court once the case reaches the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

"We're here for our patients, and we'll continue to do what we need to do to make sure our patients can make personal, private health care decisions," said Wheat.

Both sides are now preparing for the next round.

Read House Bill 2 here.


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