Texas Anti-Choice Law Could Reach Supreme Court

A week after hearings began on the omnibus anti-choice legislation that passed the Texas Congress with great fanfare last summer, a federal judge has struck down a part of the restrictive bill.

A group of pro-choice organizations filed suit challenging the bill, HB2, which could have shuttered the doors of as many as one-third of the state’s 36 reproductive health clinics that provide abortion services. The lawsuit did not cover the whole bill, but was only aimed at two specific provisions: one that required physicians to have local hospital admitting privileges and another that imposed new regulations on how physicians dispense medication abortions (RU-486). Such measures requiring family planning clinics to have admitting privilege have become familiar anti-choice tactics that have successfully closed clinics in states across the country. In Mississippi, private hospitals purposefully refused such privileges leading to the closure of nearly every clinic in the state. On Monday, just one day before the Texas bill was to go into effect, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down this requirement, arguing it was unconstitutional and placed an “undue burden” on women seeking healthcare. Yeakel, however, did not rule against the medicine requirement, making this victory bittersweet.

Portions of the law not included in the lawsuit are still scheduled to go into effect soon, including a dangerous ban on abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy.  Texans are still facing some of the harshest restrictions in the nation, especially poor women and those living in rural areas.  The new law also comes on the heels of a wave of devastating family planning cuts in 2011 that left many underprivileged women without access to healthcare. HB2 was passed after Rick Perry called a number of special legislative sessions this summer in order to pursue his extreme social agenda.

Challenges against similar laws in other states have largely been successful, and cases are pending in states such as Arizona and Georgia.

Yesterday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot filed an emergency stay to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Should this extremely conservative court overrule the federal Judge’s decision, there is a strong chance pro-choice groups will appeal to the Supreme Court.

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