A coalition of women’s health advocates filed a bill in federal court today, aiming to block the provisions of Texas House Bill 2, the far-reaching anti-abortion bill passed this summer in Austin.
Today’s lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, was jointly filed by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Austin firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.
“The goal is to protect access to safe and lawful abortions to women in Texas,” George Brothers Kincaid & Horton partner Jim George said in a media conference call. “…the statute has a draconian effect.”
The suit’s plaintiffs have asked the court to block the provisions “with the most immediate, and indeed very far-reaching, impact on women’s health,” set to take effect on Oct. 29. Those restrictions: a requirement that physicians who provide abortions must obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, and restrictions on the use of medication abortion. The lawsuit does not address the portion of the law that requires every health center providing abortion services to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.
“The restrictions in this law, combined with years of policies that have shredded the women’s health care safety net in Texas, would mean that a woman’s ability to make personal decisions about her reproductive health care in Texas would depend on where she lives,” Planned Parenthood officials said in a statement. “That is unacceptable. We are in court because a woman’s ability to access reproductive health care should not be dependent on her ZIP code.”
Federal courts have ruled that states can regulate abortions, but not to the extent to make them impossible to obtain. That hasn’t stopped Republican-led legislatures in Texas and several other states from passing laws that press those limits. Courts have blocked admitting-privilege requirements in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Wisconsin before they took effect, and state courts in North Dakota and Oklahoma have permanently struck down unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion.
The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology opposed HB2, calling it unnecessary. The law’s requirement that abortion providers obtain hospital admitting privileges could completely eliminate access to legal abortions in vast stretches of Texas, including a swath of land from roughly Fort Worth to El Paso.
“I grew up in Texas and learned pretty early on that women only got what they fought for,” said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, daughter of late Texas Governor Ann Richards.
The suit comes a day after news leaked that State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) planned to announce a run for the governorship. Davis’ filibuster of HB2 brought the bill national attention this summer.