U.S. Judge Strikes Down Part of Texas' New Abortion Law

October 29, 2013

A federal judge struck down key elements of Texas’ new abortion law Monday, heeding opponents’ warning that the provisions would force a third of the state’s abortion clinics to close and deny women access to the procedure.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel found that a provision due to go into effect Tuesday, requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges before performing abortions, was an unconstitutional burden that had no legitimate medical purpose.

And he partially struck down a second provision that restricts the use of abortion pills, saying doctors can disregard state mandates to protect a patient’s health.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, the leading Republican candidate for governor, announced an immediate appeal to the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But as a strong opponent of abortion, Abbott added, “I have no doubt that this case is going all the way to the United States Supreme Court.”

Texas’ new law, which includes a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy that was not part of the lawsuit and takes effect Tuesday, is similar to abortion measures already on appeal in a half-dozen states.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry — who signed the law and has led a decadelong charge on abortion restrictions — said the provisions “reflect the will and values of Texans.”

But abortion rights advocates said the law was designed to deny access and ignore medical advances, making abortions hard to find and as unpleasant as possible.

“Today the women of Texas won a battle,” said state Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. “But we are prepared to keep fighting until the entire Republican war against women has been put to a stop.”

Sen. Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for governor, said she wasn’t surprised by the ruling. The Fort Worth legislator rose to prominence with a 13-hour filibuster that temporarily derailed the abortion law in a special legislative session in June.

“As a mother, I would rather see our tax dollars spent on improving our kids’ school than defending this law,” she said.

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