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Federal Judge Strikes Down Texas Abortion Law

Submitted by on October 29, 2013 – 9:38 am2 Comments

A judge in Austin has blocked parts of a controversial abortion law that were set to go into effect today. Though this marks a major temporary victory for abortion rights supporters, the decision is already being appealed to a court that is known for overturning decisions on this subject.

The Texas legislature earlier this year passed the bill despite an attempted filibuster by Sen. Wendy Davis, who is now a gubernatorial candidate. Among other restrictions, the law requires that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital; that they use obsolete strict guidelines when administering RU-486 (the “abortion pill”); that all abortion centers meet the unnecessary standards of an “ambulatory care center;” and that no abortions on fetuses older than 20 weeks be performed. Planned Parenthood and other groups challenged the first two requirements; the stricter standards will not go into effect until 2014, and may be challenged then; and the 20 week limit was not challenged.

The admitting privileges and ambulatory care center provisions were expected to force the closure of dozens of the states facilities, leaving only five in major urban areas.

US District Judge Lee Yeakel found that the admitting-privileges requirement “is without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” He upheld the abortion pill requirements, but noted an exception in the case of an emergency involving the life and health of the mother.

Cecile Richards, national president of Planned Parenthood and daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, said the ruling sent a clear message to lawmakers: “It is unconstitutional for politicians to pass laws that take personal, private decisions away from women and their doctors.”

But the ruling now heads to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently reinstated a controversial Texas law requiring women seeking an abortion to get a vaginal ultrasound. That law had also been struck down by a federal judge in Austin.

[via Reuters]

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