Federal judge strikes down restrictive Texas abortion law

[JURIST] A federal judge on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] that provisions of the new Texas abortion law [HB2] violate the US Constitution, declaring the law, which was slated to take effect on Tuesday, unenforceable. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Planned Parenthood [advocacy websites] filed the suit [JURIST report] to block two provisions of the law that would require physicians who provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital and included higher restrictions on the use of abortion medication. District Judge Lee Yeakel found that the admitting-privileges provision is unconstitutional because it does not "rationally relate to the State's legitimate interest in protecting the unborn." Furthermore, Yaekel wrote that "the hospital-admitting-privileges provision of the act places an 'undue burden' on a woman seeking abortion services in Texas because it necessarily has the effect of presenting a 'substantial obstacle' to access to abortion services." Despite finding that the medication-abortion provision does not fail constitutional review, Yeakel found that the medication-abortion provision of the law is overly broad. "Although the medication-abortion provisions do not generally place an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion, they do if they ban a medication abortion where a physician determines, in appropriate medical judgment, such a procedure is necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother." Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott [official profile] has filed an emergency appeal [text, PDF] of Yeakel's order.

This is the latest development in the ongoing reproductive rights controversy [JURIST backgrounder] in the US. Earlier this month the ACLU filed suit [JURIST report] against Ohio officials, claiming that the inclusion of three abortion-related amendments in the state budget violate the state constitution. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in August against an Arizona law [HB 2800, PDF] that disqualified health providers that perform abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, from receiving public funds. Also in August Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky [advocacy website] sued [JURIST report] the Indiana State Department of Health [official website] challenging a new regulation that defined facilities prescribing Mifepristone as abortion clinics and required them meet regulatory requirements of surgical facilities, even when they do not provide surgical procedures. A similar bill, which passed [JURIST report] in Alabama in April, has received criticism as a "back-door" attempt [JURIST op-ed] to circumvent a woman's right to abortion.

 

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