Federal Judge Strikes Down Key Part Of Restrictive Texas Abortion Law

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DALLAS (MCT) — A federal judge has struck down a key provision of Texas’ new restrictive abortion laws that would have required abortion facilities in the state to comply with the standards set for surgical centers, according to court filings.

U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel struck down the portion of the regulations, commonly referred to as House Bill 2, saying it created an “impermissible obstacle” to women seeking an abortion in the state.

The restrictions would have gone into effect Sunday.

While the ruling is a temporary victory for abortion rights activists, the case will likely result in a lengthy appeals process. Yeakel also struck down a portion of the controversial law last year, ruling against a provision that required abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. His ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court in March.

“We are extremely pleased by Judge Yeakel’s ruling today. As he clearly states in his decision, requiring every abortion clinic to turn into a surgical center is excessive and not based on good medicine,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive of plaintiff Whole Woman’s Health, said in a statement. “It’s an undue burden for women in Texas — and thankfully today the court agreed. The evidence has been stacking up against the state and against the politicians who so cynically passed these laws in the name of safety.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican campaigning for governor, plans to appeal the ruling.

“The state disagrees with the court’s ruling and will seek immediate relief from the 5th Circuit, which has already upheld HB 2 once,” said Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Abbott.

In a 2013 report, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union found that the new law had forced more than half of Texas’ abortion clinics to close, while the number of women who live more than 100 miles from an approved abortion clinic had doubled.

Jonathan Saenz, president of the Austin-based conservative group Texas Values, told the Los Angeles Times he was disappointed in the decision but not surprised given the judge’s record and confident it would eventually be overturned by the conservative 5th Circuit Court.

“Efforts by pro-abortion advocates in the past to stall the implementation of these common sense laws that look to protect the health and safety of women have been stopped by the 5th Circuit,” Saenz said, “this will not be the end of this issue by a long shot.”

But he acknowledged the litigation will delay the law from taking effect as planned.

“It’s unfortunate that Texas women won’t get the type of protections they deserve,” he said, adding, “it appears it’s more about a business to these abortion centers than the health of women.”

–James Queally and Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Los Angeles Times

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(Hennessy-Fiske reported from Dallas and Queally from Los Angeles.)

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(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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