Appeals Court Partially Reverses Ruling That Declared Texas Abortion Regulations Unconstitutional

5th Circuit Credit Bobak Ha EriNEW ORLEANS — An appeals court in New Orleans, Louisiana has partially reversed a ruling that declared newly-imposed abortion regulations in the state of Texas to be unconstitutional.

As previously reported, on Monday, a federal judge appointed by then-President George H.W. Bush struck down portions of the law, 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.

“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.”

In regard to the medicinal abortion law, he stated, “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.”

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 district court’s conclusion that a state has no rational basis for requiring physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital is but one step removed from repudiating the longstanding recognition by the [U.S.] Supreme Court that a state may constitutionally require that only a physician may perform an abortion,” Circuit Judge Priscilla R. Owen wrote on behalf of the panel.

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But the court agreed with Yeakel’s opinion surrounding the requirement that abortionists follow the Food and Drug Administration’s original dosage protocol for the pill RU-486, stating that the regulation was “broader than necessary.”

“[T]he district court’s injunction continues to apply pending appeal with respect to a mother who is 50 to 63 days from her last menstrual period if the physician who is to perform an abortion procedure on the mother has exercised appropriate medical judgment and determined that, due to a physical abnormality or preexisting condition of the mother, a surgical abortion is not a safe and medically sound option for her,” Owen wrote.

Following the decision, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards continued to decry the regulations, stating that “abortion will no longer be available in vast stretches of Texas.” But Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott welcomed the ruling as a favorable sign.

“This unanimous decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women,” he wrote in a statement Thursday.

The injunction only temporarily allows the law to move forward while the case is being considered in court. A hearing is expected in January as both sides further present their arguments over the matter.

Photo: Bobak Ha’ Eri


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