Everything you need to know about the Texas abortion law battle

October 28, 2013

The fight over abortion laws moved back into the national spotlight on Monday when a federal judge blocked key parts of a controversial antiabortion law in Texas.

Wondering what the law says, what was blocked and what it means going forward? You've come to the right place. Below we give you everything you need to know.

So what just happened?

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel blocked two key parts of House Bill 2: A requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic and another one that mandates abortions must take place in surgical centers, as opposed to than allowing women to take abortion drugs at home.

Texas abortion law ruling

What is the background of the law?

After a lengthy and highly publicized legislative fight, the law passed in July and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry (R) days later. In September, more than a dozen abortion providers filed a lawsuit challenging the provisions mentioned above. The judge's ruling came a day before the new regulations would have taken effect.

I'm hearing a lot about Wendy Davis. What did she have to do with all of this?

Davis is the Democratic state senator who became a national figure when she waged a marathon filibuster earlier this year that temporarily blocked Republicans from passing the new abortion law. Davis is now a candidate for governor, running against Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), the Republican front-runner.

As attorney general, isn't Abbott also wrapped up in all this?

Yes. His office said the state promptly appealed the court's ruling. Even before Monday, the governor's race was shaping up as a contest between two candidates holding sharply contrasting views on abortion. Those battles lines are even clearer now.


Attorney General Greg Abbott (R). (Joel Martinez/AP)

What are the implications beyond Texas? And what's next?

Until the appeal process is done and the last word has been said on this case, we don't know the ultimate impact. For now, it's a victory for abortion rights providers in Texas and all of their defenders and allies around the country. And Wonkblog writes that there is a possibility that the decision could ripple to other states that have similar abortion laws. The immediate political impact is that the debate over abortion will spark input from both sides and thrust the debate back into the national consciousness.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · October 28, 2013