Photo: Reuters/Erich Schlegel
Abortion provider Planned Parenthood, along with two other major groups, filed a lawsuit in federal court late last week challenging Texas' new omnibus abortion law known as House Bill 2 that bans the practice after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires abortion clinics to meet the higher safety standards of surgical care centers, among other provisions.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and other state officials in Austin's federal court on Friday, arguing that two key provisions of the law make it far more difficult for women in rural areas of Texas to receive abortions, and therefore harm women's health instead of protect it.
The lawsuit challenges two provisions of the new law. The first challenge is against the law's restriction of the so-called "abortion pill" RU-486; the law requires direct doctor supervision when a woman takes the abortion pill. The second challenge is against the law's provision that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice.
The lawsuit does not challenge the law's ban on abortions at 20-weeks of pregnancy or the law's requirement that abortion clinics meet the same safety standards as surgical care centers.
"Provisions in this bill will put women's health and safety in danger," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, according to the Los Angeles Times. Richards added that the legal battle over the law is "the latest chapter in what is going to be a long fight to restore healthcare to women who need it most."
The lawsuit also argues that the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that addresses equal protection.
The lawsuit was backed by over one dozen abortion providers in the state. Those behind the lawsuit argue that if Texas' new abortion law goes into effect as planned on October 29, it will effectively close 13 abortion clinics by the end of October. If a judge decides to grant an injunction, the clinics will remain open.
Those who support the new abortion law have criticized Planned Parenthood and other groups behind the recent lawsuit. Texas Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston), a sponsor of House Bill 2, said it a statement: "Every time the Democrats lose in the legislature, they go to court and sue."
House Bill 2 gained national recognition earlier this summer when Texas Democratic Senator Wendy Davis attempted to block the bill by holding a 13-hour filibuster. Gov. Rick Perry then called a special session to address the bill, and it ultimately passed in the Republican-controlled legislature. When the bill passed, Perry said it was an important milestone for those who "support life and for those who support the health of Texas women."