Federal appeals court upholds Texas’ restrictive abortion law

Julia Brouillette

A federal appeals court unanimously ruled Thursday to uphold the abortion restrictions established by Texas House Bill No. 2 in July, rejecting Planned Parenthood’s argument that the bill was unconstitutional because it went too far in restricting abortion access. The bill also raised standards for abortion clinics in the state, which has resulted in the closure of fifteen abortion clinics, including every clinic in the Rio Grande Valley.

The three-judge 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge, who argued the restrictions violated the U.S. Constitution.

The bill has stirred significant controversy since it was originally introduced. In July, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, staged a 13-hour filibuster against the legislation. Davis is the Democratic nominee for governor.

Planned Parenthood sued Attorney General Greg Abbott after the bill passed, protesting two of its main provisions. One of those provisions requires physicians performing or inducing an abortion have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. The other mandates that the administering of abortion–inducing drugs comply with the Food and Drug Administration, which would require women to make four visits to a clinic instead of two.

In October, a trial court struck down the admitting privileges section as unconstitutionally restricting women’s access to abortions. It also ruled that the abortion medication provision would prevent doctors from performing abortions when necessary for the life or health of the mother.

The federal appeals court overturned that decision, but said the admitting privileges requirement couldn’t be enforced against abortion providers who applied for the necessary admitting privileges but have not yet had their applications approved by the hospital.

“We conclude that both of the challenged provisions are constitutional and therefore reverse and render judgment, with one exception, for the State,” Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones wrote on behalf of her and Judges Jennifer Elrod and Catharina Haynes.