Court Protects Abortion Access for Most Women in Texas
AUSTIN, TX – After a three day trial, a federal court today permanently struck down one provision of a recently enacted law that would have made abortion services for one-third of women in Texas virtually impossible to access.
While U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel blocked implementation of a requirement that all abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, today’s ruling has allowed another harmful measure to take effect on October 29 that severely restricts the use of medication abortion, a safe and effective method to end an early pregnancy.
More than a dozen women’s health care providers, who jointly filed suit last month on behalf of their patients, are currently considering options to protect women’s health in the face of this ruling. The providers who filed the lawsuit are represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and the firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.
“The court was right to strike the admitting privileges provision. It is unconstitutional and it would have shut down women’s health centers throughout the state,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director, ACLU. “We are disappointed by the ruling on the medication abortion restriction, which ignores accepted medical practice and will force providers to use less safe methods. But we will continue to fight and explore every option to protect women’s health.”
In blocking the law’s admitting privileges requirement, today’s court order protects access to abortion services for women living in vast stretches of Texas, including areas surrounding Ft. Worth, Harlingen, Killeen, Lubbock, McAllen, and Waco, where one-third of the state’s licensed health centers would have had to immediately halt providing abortions if that part of the law were allowed to take effect.
“We have stood with the people of Texas from the start to oppose efforts to insult the intelligence and undermine the health and safety of women and their families,” said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. “We will continue the fight until all Texas women have access to the care they need.”
As Judge Yeakel explained in his ruling, “admitting privileges have no rational relationship to improved patient care.” They also place “an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion,”
By upholding the law’s restrictions on medication abortion, physicians in Texas will now be forced to go against years of research and their professional experience by requiring most of their patients to follow an outdated and less effective protocol for medication abortion.
“Today’s decision has averted a catastrophic health crisis for women across the state of Texas,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Politicians, not doctors, pushed for both of these unconstitutional restrictions—despite the best medical standards for women’s health care. We are committed to standing with Texas health care providers and our partners in taking every necessary step ensure all women in Texas have the same rights and access to essential health care as women living in other states.”
The provisions that were ruled on today were part of a package of legislation signed by Governor Rick Perry on July 18 following a series of special legislative sessions, but opposed by 80 percent of Texas voters, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Medical experts in Texas and across the country, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Hospital Association, also publicly opposed provisions in the law because they provide no medical benefit to women and will actually jeopardize women’s health and safety.
“Today’s ruling marks an important victory for Texas women and sends a clear message to lawmakers: it is unconstitutional for politicians to pass laws that take personal, private decisions away from women and their doctors. While this ruling protects access to safe and legal abortion for women in many parts of the state, but it puts ideology over science by banning a safe method of abortion for many women,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. ”This kind of restriction on early abortion takes a personal, private decision away from women and their doctors. Planned Parenthood nurses and doctors are taking every step we can to ensure that women in Texas have access to the highest quality health care no matter where they live.”
Courts have blocked similar provisions in other states across the country. Admitting privilege requirements aimed at shutting down all or most of the abortion providers in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have been halted before they took effect. State courts in North Dakota and Oklahoma have permanently struck down unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion.
For more information on this case, please visit: www.aclu.org/reproductive-