Abortion clinics in Texas have until Sept. 1 to meet the standards of hospital-style surgical centers. Providers say that will force all but a handful of clinics in Texas to close down. Today, a federal judge in Austin heard closing arguments for and against certain provisions in the state's newest abortion law.
Opponents want U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel to strike the requirement that abortions can only be offered at ambulatory surgical centers starting Sept. 1. They also take issue with the requirement that doctors receive admitting privileges at nearby hospitals -- but only as it applies to physicians in McAllen and El Paso.
"There is a disparate impact on women in rural parts of the state. Those women simply aren’t going to have access to abortion," says Stephanie Toti, a staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. "There will be no abortion providers west of San Antonio or South of San Antonio and that is a huge geographic area."
But State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who supports the law, says abortion providers are set to open ambulatory surgical centers soon, which, he adds, shows they can upgrade if they want to. He hopes Judge Yeakel will side with the state.
"I think it’s been made clear that these regulations make sense," Rep. Hughes says. "They protect women’s health and women’s safety."
During the closing arguments, Yeakel did say he wonders why, in the 21st century, driving 150 miles to get a medical procedure done should take place. He said his written opinion will come "quickly."
Both sides are ready to appeal the judge’s decision, expected this month, to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.