Lawsuit Against Texas Anti-Abortion Law Begins

The legal battle to defeat sections of Texas’ anti-abortion law starts today.

Photo by Mary Tuma

A federal court judge in Austin will hear arguments lodged by a coalition of reproductive rights groups who say the measures imposed by the “dangerous and deeply unpopular” law would instantly cripple access to safe, legal abortion. The suit challenges two parts of the all-inclusive House Bill 2. First, a requirement that forces doctors to have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion procedure is performed. Second, a requirement that compels women to follow outdated protocol when taking abortion drugs.

While the law also prohibits abortion after 20 weeks and requires abortion clinics upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers– described as unnecessary and costly by health advocates– the other set of requirements, which take effect Oct. 29, will have the “most immediate” and “far-reaching” impact on women’s health, the plaintiffs argue. The groups hope to win a preliminary injunction before the end of the month.

“We are in court today to protect the health of Texas women by keeping abortion safe and legal in the state. This law threatens the health, and violates the constitutional rights, of Texas women who have made the complex and deeply personal decision to end a pregnancy,” said Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas president Ken Lambrecht.

The groups estimate the provisions, if enacted, would deny abortion access to one in three women. The hospital admitting section would completely eliminate access to abortion in Fort Worth, Harlingen, Lubbock, Waco, McAllen, and Killeen, they project. Professional medical organizations like the Texas Hospital Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Medical Association have continually warned against the law’s devastating effects. In addition, testimony from individual health leaders, thousands of citizen protestors and a memorable 11-hour filibuster by state Senator and now candidate for governor, Wendy Davis, attempted to halt the legislation. Anti-choice conservative Gov. Rick Perry eventually signed the measure into law earlier this year.

Filed in late September by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a Texas-based law firm, the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v Abbott, represents more than a dozen health care providers who consider the law harmful to their patients and unconstitutional, as the Current previously reported.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, ruled favorably to Planned Parenthood in the recent past. While the state eventually succeeded in banning the provider from participating in the Women's Health Program, a reproductive health Medicaid program, Yeakel initially ruled the move would pose  “substantial and irreparable harm," and granted a preliminary injunction.

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