AUSTIN — A federal judge appointed by then-President George H.W. Bush has struck down portions of a new Texas abortion law, declaring the regulations an unconstitutional and “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to have an abortion.
The ruling by District Judge Lee Yeakel came one day before the regulations were to be enacted. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is expected to file an appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“I have no doubt that this case is going all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” he told reporters following the ruling.
As previously reported, House Bill 2 (HB 2) passed the Texas House of Representatives in June, and cleared the Senate a month later after being delayed by a filibuster led by Forth Worth Democrat Wendy Davis. It was signed into law days after its passage by Governor Rick Perry.
Last month, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the ACLU of Texas and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the new law, asking the court to grant an injunction to prevent the statute from going into effect on October 29th. Specifically, the suit 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.
Abbott, a Roman Catholic, had argued that the regulations would improve the level of care and protect the life and health of women who obtained abortions. But Planned Parenthood and others asserted that the admitting privileges requirement would have shut down the majority of the state’s 38 abortion facilities as many hospitals will not work with abortionists.
On Monday, in a 26-page opinion, Judge Yeakel agreed with Planned Parenthood and others.
“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,” he wrote. “The court will enjoin enforcement of that provision.”
A similar law surrounding admitting privileges was also halted earlier this year in Mississippi and was likewise appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
While finding parts of the medicinal abortion rules to be sound, Yeakel struck down other provisions, stating that they do not allow the abortionist to make his own decisions on how to handle individual abortions.
“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,” he stated.
Following the release of Yeakel’s decision, abortion advocacy groups cheered the defeat of two of the the four components of the new law.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for Texas women,” Danielle Well of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas told reporters. “It sends a clear message to lawmakers that politicians have no place in a woman’s medical decisions, and it’s unconstitutional for them to interfere in those decisions.”
But Governor Rick Perry vowed to defend the law for as long as it takes.
“Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently,” he said in a statement. “We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.”
Texas regulations barring abortions after 20 weeks and requiring abortion facilities to meet surgical center standards were not a part of the lawsuit. As abortionists in the state advise that the vast majority of abortions occur before 20 weeks, the late term-abortion ban will go into effect today as planned—unchallenged.