Wendy Davis couldn’t stop a Texas abortion law. But a federal court just did.

October 28, 2013

(Joel Page - AP)

Moments ago, the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas issued an opinion striking down two key parts of an abortion restriction the state passed earlier this year.

The decision halts two key provisions of House Bill 2: A requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital and another  barring medical abortions.

"The admitting privileges provision of House Bill 2 does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the State in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her," U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in the opinion.

On the medical abortion ban, he wrote, "Although the medication abortion provisions do not generally place an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion, they do if they ban a medication abortion where a physician determines, in appropriate medical judgment, such a procedure is necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother."

This is a big deal for the 12 Texas abortion providers that filed suit against the restrictions, which were set to take effect on Oct. 29.

It's possible that this decision could ripple outside of Texas to other states that also have laws mandating admitting privileges at hospitals for abortion providers. The Guttmacher Institute counted three states that required admitting privileges as of June, with another three laws slated to take effect. This was before Texas had passed House Bill 2, so it's not on the list.

abortion regulations

 Judge Yeakel counted the admitting privileges portion as a violation of Casey v. Planned Parenthood, a Supreme Court case from the 1990s that barred abortion restrictions that place an "undue burden" on the woman. This a key opinion in abortion law, which essentially offers a road map for the ways states are, and aren't, allowed to restrict abortion access.

"The court finds that the hospital admitting-privileges provision of the act fails both prongs of the undue-burden test with regard to any woman seeking an abortion previability, therefore, the court concludes that Planned Parenthood's facial challenge to this provision may be maintained and the provision is unconstitutional," he writes.

Texas Gov. Perry has already promised to fight the decision. If the case winds its way up to the Supreme Court, it could set some new precedent for other states that have similar admitting restrictions.

You can read the full decision below.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2013/10/2013-10-28_PPvAbbott.pdf

 

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Sarah Kliff · October 28, 2013