Abortion Providers File Another Lawsuit Against Texas' New Abortion Law

Texas abortion regulations
Protesters rally before the start of a special session of the Legislature in Austin, Texas, July 1, 2013. |

Texas abortion providers filed a second lawsuit this week against the state's pro-life regulations passed in July 2013. The lawsuit was filed just one week after a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld another provision of the state's omnibus abortion law already in effect.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of several abortion providers in the state challenges the new abortion provision, set to take effect Sept. 1, that requires abortion clinics to meet the same surgical standards as ambulatory care centers. The lawsuit states that this provision would require all but "fewer than 10 clinics" in the state to close because the upgrades are so costly.

"There is no question that the politicians who passed this law intended this as the final blow in their assault on women's constitutional right and ability to safely and legally end a pregnancy in Texas," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, according to The Texas Tribune.

"We filed this lawsuit to stop the second-largest state in the nation from plunging millions of women back into the darkness and grave danger of illegal abortion that Roe v Wade was supposed to end," Northrup added.

The lawsuit also asks the court to exempt two abortion clinics from a law that took affect in November requiring abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their practice. The two clinics seeking exemption are the Whole Woman's Health clinic in McAllen and the Reproductive Services clinic in El Paso, which are reportedly the only clinics left in their areas to perform abortions, according to the lawsuit.

Emily Horne, a spokeswoman with Texas Right to Life, told the El Paso Times that she is confident Texas' new abortion provision is constitutional and would hold up in a Supreme Court case.

"I think we have a good chance in the Supreme Court, but whether they will even take it up is a big question […] We think we have a meritorious law that the Supreme Court would view favorably."

Just last week, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, La., upheld the state's House Bill 2 that requires abortion facilities to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their practice. Although District Judge Lee Yeakel had previously found HB2 to be unconstitutional, the three-judge panel said in their opinion that the provision does not place an undue burden on abortion clinics or women seeking abortions.

The opinion, written by Judge Edith Jones, said HB2 encourages the overall safe care of Texas women, not only in cases of emergency, but also in the effective communication between healthcare providers.

"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."

Although abortion providers have sought to challenge several provisions from the omnibus abortion law that passed in July 2013 during a special legislative session called by Gov. Rick Perry, the state's ban on abortions after 20-weeks of pregnancy remains unchallenged, as most abortions in the state already happen before the pregnancy reaches that gestation period.

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