Federal Judge Strikes Down Provisions of Texas Abortion Law
A federal judge in Austin has struck down several parts of House Bill 2, the controversial abortion law passed by the Texas Legislature last year.
The provisions were set to go into effect on Monday.
District Judge Lee Yeakel found that part of the law requiring abortion clinics to upgrade their facilities to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers imposed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. That provision likely would have led to the closure of all but a handful of abortion clinics in Texas.
Yeakel also partially halted a provision requiring abortion doctors to get admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. That part of the ruling only applies to clinics in McAllen and El Paso who challenged the requirement.
The law's supporters argue the requirement was aimed at improving patient safety at abortion facilities. Opponents said it was a thinly-veiled attempt to force the closure of abortion clinics by requiring expensive upgrades.
In his ruling, Yeakel sided with opponents, writing "after examining the act and the context in which it operates, that the ambulatory-surgical-center requirement was intended to close existing licensed abortion clinics."
More than half of Texas' abortion clinics have closed since the implementation of HB2 began. Whole Woman's Health, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, closed three of their clinics in Beaumont, McAllen and Austin earlier this year, in anticipation of the ambulatory surgical center and admitting privileges requirements. Whole Woman's founder Amy Hagstrom Miller says they plan to reopen their McAllen clinic, which is not subject to the admitting privileges requirement, as soon as this weekend. She says they will reopen the Austin and Beaumont clinics, but since the licenses for those facilities have lapsed, it will likely take some time.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office released a short statement after the ruling: “The State disagrees with the court’s ruling and will seek immediate relief from the Fifth Circuit [Court of Appeals], which has already upheld HB 2 once.”
The AG was referring an earlier challenge to another part of HB2, which was first struck down by a district judge, and then upheld by the 5th Circuit.