[JURIST] On Sunday Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott [official website] filed a motion [motion, PDF] in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] to delay the enforcement of a recent district court ruling [JURIST report] that struck down state law that imposed new regulations on abortion clinics. The motion was filed just hours before the new law was to take effect today. The motion challenges the findings by Judge Lee Yeakel [official profile] that the new provision would impose an unconstitutional restriction on women's access to abortion in Texas by imposing an undue burden on their right to seek a pre-viability abortion. Plaintiffs argue:
In holding these provisions unconstitutional, the district court failed even to mention (much less follow) precedent from the Supreme Court and this Court regarding the applicable legal test for facial challenges to abortion regulations--the 'large fraction' test. In its place, the district court substituted its own 'significant number' test, which has no basis in existing law. The district court also refused to apply this Court's recent holding that travel distances of 150 miles do not constitute an undue burden.
The law has been center of much debate in Texas since its passage in 2013, and Texas abortion-rights supporters and opponents have a protracted history [JURIST news archive] of battling in the state and federal courts. In April, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced [JURIST report] its filing of a lawsuit against Texas House Bill [HB2] requiring physicians performing "surgical abortions" to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and also requiring certain compliance protocols relating to the administration of drugs inducing medication abortions. The Fifth Circuit had, a month prior, upheld [JURIST report] these two provisions on a challenge from Planned Parenthood. In November 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] to allow HB2 to remain in effect while under review by the Fifth Circuit. In July 2013, Governor Rick Perry signed [JURIST report] HB2, which enacted three new restrictions on abortions in Texas. These restrictions included requirements that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, that the facility meets ambulatory surgical center requirements and that the allowable gestational period for an abortion be reduced from 24 to 20 weeks.