Federal Judge Blocks Major Provision of Texas Anti-Abortion Law

HUGE news from Texas yesterday, as the mega-controversial HB2, Texas’ 2013 law which was set to close all but 7 comprehensive women’s health facilities in the state, is given a major rebuke.  Here’s the story from the Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN – A federal judge struck down a key piece of Texas’s tough new abortion law Friday afternoon, just three days before its implementation was expected to force all but seven clinics in the state to close.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that requiring abortion facilities to comply with the standards of ambulatory surgical centers would reduce access so much that it would put an unconstitutional burden on Texas women seeking the procedure.

“The ambulatory-surgical-center requirement is unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a previabilty abortion,” Yeakel ruled, blocking enforcement of the requirement scheduled to take effect Monday.

The ruling represents a major victory for a coalition of abortion providers who challenged the law, but it may be a short-lived triumph. The case is expected to be appealed, and the providers will have to hope to avoid a repeat of last fall, when Yeakel struck down a different part of the law only to have his decision quickly reversed by the Fifth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Ultimately, both cases could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Who knows what the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will do at this point.  But it is good to know that the lower court has once again sided with the right of Texas women to have the healthcare that they choose.

Everyone is fixated strictly on the abortion aspect of these cases… HB2’s whole purpose was to virtually eliminate abortion in only the largest of Texas cities.  But just as important here is the fact that these clinics offer comprehensive healthcare in their communities… not just abortions.  If these doctors have to shut their doors, it endangers the very lives of Texas women.  Without a community health provider to go to, are these women supposed to just put off their yearly check-ups?  Does the legislature expect someone living in McAllen or Pharr to make an expensive trip to San Antonio every year just for a well-woman exam?

It’s these very arguments that Democrats in the Texas legislature made sure to point out last summer as HB2 was being hotly debated, almost crafting a court case against the law before it was even passed. Hopefully the Fifth Circuit will look at all the evidence as well if this decision is appealed.  But for now, Texas women can be thankful that some clinics will remain open.

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