Federal Appeals Court Upholds New Texas Abortion Regulations

5th Circuit Credit Bobak Ha EriNEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that new Texas laws designed to regulate the abortion industry are constitutional and may be implemented by the state, overturning a lower court ruling that stated that the laws served no reasonable purpose.

As previously reported, a federal judge appointed by then-President George H.W. Bush struck down portions of the new law last October, declaring the regulations an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to have an abortion.

District Judge Lee Yeakel agreed with Planned Parenthood and others who had challenged the requirement that abortionists have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility, and that they follow the Food and Drug Administration’s original dosage protocol for the pill RU-486.

But as Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the injunction to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the three-judge panel disagreed with Yeakel that the admitting privileges requirement served no purpose. It stated that although the law would make it more difficult for women to obtain an abortion, the consequence was merely an “incidental effect,” and was “not designed to strike at the right [to abortion] itself.”

The case was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected 5-4 Planned Parenthood’s request for a stay. Justices Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Roberts and Kennedy led the majority, while Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Kagan said that the injunction against the law should have remained in effect.

As the matter was then sent back to the Fifth Circuit for full review, the three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based federal court ruled on Thursday that the new Texas law “on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman.”

“Viewed from the proper perspective, the State’s articulation of rational legislative objectives, which was backed by evidence placed before the state legislature, easily supplied a connection between the admitting–privileges rule and the desirable protection of abortion patients’ health,” wrote Chief Justice Edith Jones, appointed by then-president Ronald Reagan.

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Following the ruling, Planned Parenthood vowed to continue to fight the regulations.

“The latest restrictions in Texas will force women to have abortions later in pregnancy, if they are able to get to a doctor at all,” President Cecile Richards told reporters. “This court ruling is not the last word.”

But Governor Rick Perry praised the panel, stating that the will of the people of Texas is that unborn children be protected.

“The people of Texas have spoken through their elected leaders and in support of protecting the culture of life in our state,” he said. “Today’s court decision is good news for Texas women and the unborn, and we will continue to fight for the protection of life and women’s health in Texas.”

However, Texas officials have also repeatedly noted that the legislation does not aim to end abortion, but rather to regulate its practice. There are a reported 80,000 abortions in Texas each year among its 42 facilities.

Photo: Bobak Ha’Eri

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