U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel yesterday ruled that part of Texas abortion restrictions, passed in special legislative session this summer, is unconstitutional. The decision blocked one provision completely, and partially blocked another. Other provisions remain in effect. The effort to prevent passage of the new restrictions, strongly supported by Gov. Rick Perry, included the filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis, and thousands of Texans rallying in Austin. Plaintiffs in the case ““ including four Planned Parenthood affiliates and Whole Woman’s Health ““ represent the majority of abortion providers in the state.
Yeakel issued his ruling with less than 24 hours before the new regulations were to go into effect. From The Texas Tribune:
In his opinion, Yeakel wrote that a provision of House Bill 2 that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility “˜places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her.’
He wrote that a second provision requiring women to follow a federally-approved regimen for drug-induced abortion “” as opposed to a more commonly used evidence-based regimen “” would not generally place an undue burden on women seeking abortions. But he said it would be unconstitutional for the state to ban a woman from having such an abortion if it was safer for the woman in a physician’s “˜appropriate medical judgment.’ …
Yeakel indicated during court proceedings that he believes his decision will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which has recently upheld numerous laws that restrict abortion. He said it could eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Unchallenged, at least to this point, are two other provisions. The ban on abortions after 20 weeks goes into effect today, and in September of next year, clinics providing abortion will be required to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical.
While clearly a victory for the plaintiffs, there is also widespread recognition that the decision is not broad enough. At CNN:
Abortion-rights groups say the judge did not go far enough on the issue of medical abortion, believing doctors should be able to use it without restrictions.
“˜Today’s ruling marks an important victory for Texas women and sends a clear message to lawmakers: it is unconstitutional for politicians to pass laws that take personal, private decisions away from women and their doctors,’ Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
“˜While this ruling protects access to safe and legal abortion for women in many parts of the state, part of this ruling will make it impossible for many women to access medication abortion, which is safe and effective early in pregnancy,’ she added.
Gov. Perry issued a brief statement. Via KUT:
“˜Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently. We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.’
Attorney General and presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott said his office will appeal the decision to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court.
Also responding, from the Republican side, via the Houston Chronicle, was Sen. Ted Cruz who
… spoke out against the judge’s ruling …, saying the “˜commonsense legislation’ was constitutional and helpful to protect women and unborn children. He said he hoped the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals would uphold the law.
Sen. Wendy Davis, presumptive Democratic nominee for governor (no other Democrat has filed) issued a very brief statement. Via NBC News:
In a statement, Davis said she was “˜not surprised by the judge’s ruling.’
“˜As a mother, I would rather see our tax dollars spent on improving our kid’s schools rather than defending this law,’ she said.
That Davis turns the focus on education is not surprising, since that has long been one of her key issues. That she doesn’t mention the word “abortion” ““ which she also did not do in her announcement that she was running for governor ““ is being pointed out by some as an indication of the kind of challenges facing a Democrat in a state-wide race.
Another Texas Tribune article included a focus on the ongoing national attention to the abortion law.
… (M)edia outlets were quick to put the Texas decision in a larger, national context. For instance, here’s what the Washington Post had to say: “˜It’s possible that this decision could ripple outside of Texas to other states that also have laws mandating admitting privileges at hospitals for abortion providers.’
The NY Times provides some details about the “national context.”
Courts in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wisconsin have blocked similar admitting-privilege requirements … .
Courts in North Dakota and Oklahoma have struck down laws imposing the earlier drug protocol for medication abortions, but one remains in effect in Ohio. …
Texas was the 12th state to adopt a 20-week ban, which legal experts say is in conflict with Supreme Court decisions granting a right to abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks. Courts have blocked such measures in the three states where they have been challenged, but they remain in effect in others.
Abortion rights groups said they were still studying when and how to challenge the ban.
Which, I suppose, helps understand why the plaintiffs in Texas did not challenge the 20-week ban.
Meanwhile and nation-wide, Roe v. Wade remains under attack.
(Stand With Texas Women Summer Rally Via Stand With Texas Women)