Appeals Court Reinstates Bulk of Texas Abortion Safety Law

A panel of judges at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision Thursday that reinstates most of Texas’ new abortion safety law. The ruling comes just three days after a federal judge said the regulations were unconstitutional.

The panel ruled that the law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital can take effect as early as Friday while a lawsuit moves forward.

The appeals court panel overturned the decision of U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who said that abortionists’ inability to admit an injured woman to a local hospital has “no rational relationship to improved patient care.”

The panel, however, left in place the portion of Yeakel’s order that prevents the state from enforcing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol for abortion-inducing drugs in cases where the woman is between 50 and 63 days' gestation. Doctors who testified before the court said that these women would be harmed if the protocol were enforced.

According to Fox News, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott made an emergency appeal to the more conservative Fifth Circuit, arguing that the law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges is a constitutional use of the state legislature’s authority.

Abbott said in a statement that “this unanimous decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women.”

The lawsuit was brought by Planned Parenthood; the ACLU; and a dozen abortionists, including Drs. Alan Braid, Lamar Robinson, and Pamela Richter. Their attorneys had argued that the regulations did not protect women and would shut down a third of the abortion clinics in Texas.

The order by the appeals court is temporary until it can hold a complete hearing, likely in January.

Abortion safety regulations in Texas are now among the most robust in the nation. The law bans abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and, beginning in October of 2014, requires doctors to perform all abortions in surgical facilities.

One chain of abortion clinics testified during the trial that it has attempted to obtain admitting privileges for its doctors at 32 hospitals but have only had 15 accepted applications, with no final decisions announced as of yet.

Hospitals with religious affiliations will often not permit abortionists on staff, and others are fearful of protests should they provide privileges. In addition, many hospitals have requirements that doctors on their medical staffs live within a certain radius of the facility or perform a minimum number of surgeries per year at the hospital.


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