The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals partially reinstated two suspended abortion restrictions on Thursday by placing a stay on a district judge's ruling in favor of Planned Parenthood and other Texas pro-choice groups. The court also granted a state request to expedite the timing of a hearing on the state's new, strict abortion law. The decision will reinstate a requirement that all abortion-performing doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and limited a decision by the district court to provide health exceptions for the state's law restricting drug-induced abortions.
The provisions in question are just a part of the state's controversial new law, which went into effect on Tuesday. The law includes a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, and a handful of other requirements not challenged by the Planned Parenthood suit. On Monday, federal District Judge Lee Yeakel blocked the admitting privileges provision on the grounds that it had "no rational basis," and placed "a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion." The Fifth Circuit, which has a record of siding with abortion-restricting measures, disagreed, and decided that the state had a high likelihood of succeeding against Planned Parenthood's case.
Yaekel's decision argued that the admitting privileges requirement would not, in fact, improve the outcome of patient care following an abortion complication. It would, however, close a sizable number of clinics in the state. Advocates estimate that enforcement of the admitting privileges provision will force 13 of the state's 32 clinics to close. The Fifth Circuit's decision acknowledged both points from the district court, but focused in on the former rather than the latter, writing:
The district court focused primarily on emergency room treatment of women experiencing complications following an abortion. This overlooks substantial interests of the State in regulating the medical profession and the State’s interest in “‘protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession.’” As the Supreme Court has noted, “the State has ‘legitimate concern for maintaining high standards of professional conduct’ in the practice of medicine.’”
Planned Parenthood, along with advocates for abortion access, had argued that the admitting privileges requirement could close more clinics than originally thought as hospitals — some on religious or moral grounds — refuse to accept applications from abortion-providing physicians for admitting privileges. A third of the state's physicians performing the procedure do not have admitting privileges that meet the requirements of the law. The Fifth Circuit will now hear oral arguments on the case in January to determine whether the law is constitutional. In the meantime, the state will be able to enforce it.
The full document is below: