U.S. Appeals Court upholds new Texas abortion rules

Published 03/27 2014 05:43PM

Updated 03/27 2014 05:49PM

A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld Texas' tough new abortion restrictions that shuttered many of the abortion clinics in the state.

A panel of judges at the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and served no medical purpose. In its opinion, the appeals court said the law "on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman."

Texas lawmakers last year passed some of the toughest restrictions in the U.S. on when, where and how women may obtain an abortion. The Republican-controlled Legislature required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and placed strict limits on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing pills.

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Most Republican leaders in Texas oppose abortion, except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. In passing the new rules, they argued they were protecting the health of the woman.

But abortion-rights supporters called the measures an attempt to stop abortions in Texas through overregulation. Many abortion doctors do not have admitting privileges and limiting when and where they may prescribe abortion-inducing pills discourages women from choosing that option, they say.

Other aspects of the new abortion laws, including a requirement that all procedures take place in a surgical facility, do not take effect until September.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in October that the provisions place an unconstitutional burden on women's access to abortion. Three days after Yeakel's ruling, the 5th Circuit allowed Texas to enforce the law while the state appealed the decision. At least a dozen Texas abortion clinics closed after the law took effect.

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers had argued the regulations did not protect women. Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood annoucned plans to open a $5 million abortion clinic in San Antonio that complied with Texas' new laws.

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Following the annoucement, Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Texas governor and current attorney general, tweeted the following message.

"BREAKING: We just won the HB2 case at 5th Circuit. Decision by unanimous female panel. More later. #txlege"

About an hour after Abbott released his statement, Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for governor who filibustered for more than 13 hours last summer to stop the passage of the bill, released the following statement:

"Greg Abbott wants to force his personal political agenda on Texas women. Insider politicians like Abbott are endangering Texas women's health by shutting down access to cancer screenings, pre-natal care, preventative care and birth control across the state," said Davis.

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