Federal judge: Texas abortion limits unconstitutional

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 5:43 PM

A portion of a new abortion law passed by the Texas Legislature has been ruled unconstitutional, and will not take effect as scheduled on Tuesday.

The law would have required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. Opponents believed that would have forced the shutdown of all but five abortion providers in the state.

In a 26-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled the admitting privileges requirement is unconstitutional, and poses a "undue burden" on women seeking an abortion.

"The court concludes that admitting privileges have no rational relationship to improved patient care," Yeakel said in the ruling.

"Today's ruling is a victory for Texas women,” said Danielle Well, of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, whose organization joined other abortion providers in bringing suit against the state. "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."

The judge upheld the rule requiring doctors to follow strict instructions for pill-induced abortions, which are by far the most common method in use.

Under the law, women would have to see a doctor at least four times instead of being allowed to take the medication at home.

Pro-Life Dallas executive director Karen Garnett calls it a partial victory. "This will protect women in Texas who are obtaining RU486 abortions,” she said. "There has been no requirement that they be under the direct care of the abortion doctor, and this will at least raise that level of care."

State Sen. Wendy Davis, who famously filibustered against the bill, issued the following statement in response to the judge’s ruling:

"Texas families are stronger and healthier when women across the state have access to quality healthcare. I’m not surprised by the judge’s ruling. As a mother, I would rather see our tax dollars spent on improving our kid’s schools rather than defending this law."

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement that says:

"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. 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 Attorney General Greg Abbott is filing an emergency appeal to the ruling.

This trial and ruling did not address the portion of the law that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That requirement will go into effect as planned on Tuesday.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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