Less than 24 hours before the law would have taken affect, a federal judge in Texas blocked an important part of the state’s restrictive new abortion law on Monday and partially blocked a second, ruling that the undue burden the law placed on women made it unconstitutional.
In a decision that is widely expected to be appealed by the state, Judge Lee Yeakel struck down the portion of the law that would have required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in its entirety, saying the requirement was “without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” This portion of the law would have been responsible for the shutdown of as many as one-third of the state’s abortion clinics.
He ruled that the second provision, which requires women to follow a federally-approved protocol for drug-induced abortion as opposed to a more widely used evidence-based regimen, would not generally place an undue burden on women. But, he said that it would be unconstitutional for the state to prevent such an evidence-based regimen if it was deemed safer by a physician. The ruling allows the evidence-based regimen to be used in certain situations that present a health risk to the mother.
In bringing the suit, the plaintiffs, who represent the majority of abortion providers in the state, argued that the law would have “dramatic and draconian” effects on women’s access to the procedure, and declared today’s ruling a victory for women in Texas.
“This decision will keep thousands of women safe and allows our Whole Woman’s Health clinics to continue to provide compassionate, professional care to women in our communities,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, chief executive, founder and president of Whole Woman’s Health said in a statement to the Texas Tribune.
In his ruling, Yeakel acknowledged that the decision would most likely be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has recently upheld laws restricting abortion. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has already indicated his intent to continue the fight.
“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,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. “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.”