UPDATE: A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled that most of Texas’ tough new abortion restrictions can take effect immediately, meaning that a third of the state’s clinics that perform the procedure likely won’t be able to do so starting as soon as today.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a permanent injunction placed on the abortion regulations, arguing that the state was likely to succeed in its legal arguments. The three-judge panel wrote that “there is a substantial likelihood that the state will prevail in its argument that Planned Parenthood failed to establish an undue burden on women seeking abortions or that the hospital-admitting-privileges requirement creates a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.”
The appellate battle is expected to continue.
A panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said the law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital can take effect while a lawsuit challenging the restrictions moves forward.
A federal judge has blocked key provisions of Texas House Bill 2, the controversial abortion bill passed this summer and scheduled to go into effect Tuesday.
The suit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, was jointly filed in September 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 suit’s plaintiffs 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 Tuesday. 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.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled the admitting privileges requirement is unconstitutional and poses an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. It “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.
Despite the plaintiff’s victory with regard to admitting privileges, Yeakel upheld a portion of the law that puts additional restrictions on pregnancy-ending drugs, saying the requirement “is clearly more burdensome to a woman” than the current protocol. But the plaintiffs failed to meet the threshold to show it would be an undue burden for women.
The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology opposed HB2, calling it unnecessary. The law’s admitting privilege requirement could have completely eliminated access to legal abortions in vast stretches of Texas, including a swath of land from roughly Fort Worth to El Paso.
Not included in the lawsuit were two other provisions of the law, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the woman’s health is endangered or there is evidence of severe fetal abnormality. The other would raise standards for abortion clinics so that they have to meet requirements of ambulatory surgical centers.
The case is expected to continue its way up the appeals court ladder.
Read the full decision below: