Judge Blocks Part of Texas' Abortion Regs, But 20-Week Abortion Ban Still Goes Into Effect

Abortion activists (in orange) and pro-life advocates (in blue) rally in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas in this July 12, 2013 file photo.
Abortion activists (in orange) and pro-life advocates (in blue) rally in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Austin, Texas in this July 12, 2013 file photo. | (Photo: Reuters/Mike Stone)

Because of a complicated ruling by a federal judge in a case likely headed for the Supreme Court, the Texas ban on abortions after 20 weeks went into effect today without one of the limits on abortionists planned by the Texas legislature.

The judge ruled Monday afternoon that abortion regulations passed by the Texas legislature requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital within 30 miles of their abortion clinics is unconstitutional and will not take effect.

District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in his ruling following the three-day trial, "[T]he act's admitting-privileges provision is without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus."

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Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and other abortionists argued in court that the regulations would shut down a third of the abortion clinics in Texas.

Yeakel upheld the requirement that abortionists follow FDA guidelines for administering abortion-inducing drugs, such as RU-486, to patients in-office.

Since lawyers for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights and abortionists did not contest the ban on abortions at 20 weeks gestation, this new regulation will take effect on Tuesday.

Similarly, the lawsuit didn't challenge a regulation in the law that requires all abortion facilities to meet the standards of ambulatory care centers by the fall of 2014.

Reacting to Judge Yeakel's ruling, Emily Horne, legislative associate with Texas Right to Life, told The Christian Post late Monday that the pro-life organization is "grateful and excited that babies at 20 weeks and can feel pain are no longer allowed to be aborted."

"We're very excited that that was not challenged and will still go into effect on Tuesday," Horne said. "The federal judge also upheld the requirement that doctors must follow the FDA requirement on the medical abortion pill. One of which is that they're present when each dose is administered to the patient."

A bottle and two pills of mifepristone, formerly know as RU-486 are seen in a handout photo.
A bottle and two pills of mifepristone, formerly know as RU-486 are seen in a handout photo. | (Photo: Reuters/Newscom)

Horne added that there's a loophole on restrictions of chemical abortions in the state, because abortionists have the flexibility to decide if a woman can take some of the abortion-inducing drugs at home, if they feel that the health or life of the mother is at risk.

Heather Busby of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas told KERA, a Dallas affiliate of NPR, that requiring abortionists be present when administering both doses of RU-486, opposed to sending the second series of abortion-inducing drugs home with the patient, means "another day of lost work," because a patient must be seen by the abortionist twice.

However, according to Horne, "If you're advocating against safety standards as a means of keeping more abortion clinics open, then that doesn't promote better health at all. I can't be OK with saying 'Well, we just better not pass any regulations because even if the abortions are unsafe, they have to be available.'"

She added that it's in the hands of the abortionists to decide if they are going to upgrade the safety standards of their facilities or if they are going to decide to close.

"I can't predict what the abortion clinics are going to do in the future," Horne said. "It's in their power to upgrade the facility standards. But you can't advocate for more abortions if you're advocating against safety."

Alexis McGill Johnson, chair of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told Fox News' Megyn Kelly on "The Kelly File" Monday night that, as the largest abortion provider in the U.S., Planned Parenthood is considering filing lawsuits in states that ban abortion at 20 weeks gestation or younger, because, according to Johnson, babies are not viable at that stage of life.

Republican Gov. of Texas Rick Perry also announced Monday that under his leadership, the state will continue to fight to implement all of HB 2 that was passed by the legislature and signed into law on July 18.

"The decision will not stop ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women in Texas aren't exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently," Perry said.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he's appealing the court's ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, La. In a statement released by Lauren Bean, spokeswoman for Abbott, "As everyone – including the trial court judge – has acknowledged, this is a matter that will ultimately be resolved by the appellate courts or the U.S. Supreme Court."

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