(Photo: Reuters/Mike Stone)
A U.S. appeals court upheld a Texas law on Thursday that requires abortionists to gain admitting privileges at a local hospital within 30 miles of their abortion clinics.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, La., ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott that Texas' HB 2, which was signed into law last July, is constitutional and does not place an undue burden on abortionists and women seeking abortions.
HB 2 went into effect in October 2013 and requires abortionists to follow FDA guidelines for administering abortion-inducing drugs, such as RU-486, to patients in-office; places a ban on abortions at 20 weeks gestation; requires abortion facilities to meet the health and safety standards of ambulatory care centers by the fall of this year; and requires abortionists to gain admitting privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of the clinics where they practice.
Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and other abortionists argued in court that the regulation requiring hospital admitting privileges was unconstitutional and would shut down a third of the abortion clinics in Texas.
Sixteen abortion clinics have since closed down, either because clinic owners are opting to not upgrade their facilities to meet the new safety requirements, or because they're either defying the new law by refusing to apply for admitting privileges or hospitals won't approve their applications due to liability issues.
Cheryl Sullenger, the senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue, a pro-life organization, believes that some abortion facilities might be closing simply because clinic owners don't want to pay to upgrade their facilities.
"What they're really saying is: we don't believe that women are worth the extra money it would cost to increase our safety protocols at the clinic. And they're not worth us doing what it takes to get hospital privileges," Sullenger told CP.
"Most hospitals won't extend privileges to abortionists because they've either been disciplined before or have [a long history of] lawsuits that make them a liability to the hospital," she added. "Abortionists are not the cream of the crop in the medical profession; they're the bottom of the barrel."
Thursday's decision overturns District Judge Lee Yeakel's ruling, which found that requiring abortionists to gain admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was unconstitutional.
In a statement shared with CP, Republican Gov. Rick Perry said, "Thursday's court decision is good news for Texas women and the unborn, and we will continue to fight for the protection of life and women's health."
One caveat to the ruling is that abortionists who applied for admitting privileges before the law went into effect but have not yet received a response from local hospitals, can continue to perform abortions until their applications are approved or denied.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, the daughter of former Democratic governor of Texas the-late Ann Richards, told her organization's supporters that Planned Parenthood will "continue providing services, including abortion, to women across the state [and] combat these laws in the courts."
She added that Planned Parenthood's "separate political arm will mobilize voters to replace lawmakers who champion these dangerous laws in the first place."
An excerpt from the Fifth Circuit's decision written by Judge Edith Jones, joined by Judge Jennifer Elrod and Judge Catharina Haynes, states the following:
"During [trial] proceedings, Planned Parenthood conceded that at least 210 women in Texas annually must be hospitalized after seeking an abortion. Witnesses on both sides further testified that some of the women who are hospitalized after an abortion have complications that require an Ob/Gyn specialist's treatment. Against Planned Parenthood's claims that these women can be adequately treated without the admitting–privileges requirement, the State showed that many hospitals lack an Ob/Gyn on call for emergencies." (p. 16)
"Requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges would also promote the continuity of care in all cases, reducing the risk of injury caused by miscommunication and misdiagnosis when a patient is transferred from one health care provider to another." (p. 16)
"The specter of Dr. Kermit Gosnell informed the testimony of Dr. Love and Dr. Anderson, both of whom explained that the credentialing process entailed in the regulation reduces the risk that abortion patients will be subjected to woefully inadequate treatment." (p. 16)