Less than 24 hours before new abortion regulations were set to take effect in Texas, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Monday blocked implementation of one provision challenged by abortion providers and partially blocked a second provision, ruling that they could place an undue burden on women and are therefore unconstitutional.
In his opinion, Yeakel wrote that a provision of House Bill 2 that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility “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 that a second provision requiring women to follow a federally approved regimen for drug-induced abortion — as opposed to a more commonly used evidence-based regimen — would not generally place an undue burden on women seeking abortions. But he said it would be unconstitutional for the state to ban a woman from having such an abortion if it was safer for the woman in a physician’s “appropriate medical judgment.” Yeakel’s ruling allows a physician to use the evidence-based protocol for drug-induced abortions in certain situations that present a risk to the health and safety of the mother.
The state immediately appealed the court’s ruling, meaning the case heads to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has recently upheld numerous laws that restrict abortion. “We appreciate the trial court’s attention in this matter,” Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, wrote in a statement. “As everyone — including the trial court judge — has acknowledged, this is a matter that will ultimately be resolved by the appellate courts or the U.S. Supreme Court.”
See here, here, and here for the recent history. A copy of Judge Yeakel’s ruling is at the link above, and here’s more on the appeal. This is a very good, if not fully complete, first step, but as noted it is far from the last step. I have no faith at all that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold the injunction, but I suppose I could be too pessimistic about that. We’ll just have to wait and see. Wonkblog, Texas Politics, BOR, Trail Blazers, Texpatriate, and RH Reality Check have more, and selected reactions from politicians are beneath the fold.
From Sen. Wendy Davis:
“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 than defending this law.”
From Sen. Rodney Ellis:
“HB 2 was an unprecedented, unreasonable, and unconscionable attack on women’s health. Texas women deserve better. I’m glad that parts of the bill that would have made constitutionally-protected health care services less safe and less available won’t be going into effect tomorrow.”
From Rep. Jessica Farrar:
I am disappointed that Judge Yeakel denied the injunction on the medication abortion provision. Now, doctors will be forced to follow outdated protocols in administering medication abortions. Still, his decision to enjoin the admitting privileges provision is a victory for women’s health. Had the admitting privileges provision gone into effect next week as scheduled, clinics across the state would have been forced to close. Those closures would affect women’s access not only to safe and legal abortions, but also to other important health services.