On Monday, a federal judge partially blocked Texas's new, controversial anti-abortion law on constitutional grounds. The law, will shutter many of the state's abortion-providing clinics and set a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, was famously filibustered by state legislator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. The order will block the enforcement of a part of the law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Some unchallenged portions of the law, including the 20-week ban, will still go into effect on Tuesday. Another measure requiring doctors to perform abortions in an ambulatory surgical center doesn't go into effect until 2014. Monday's decision by District Judge Lee Yeakel (who, fun fact, was appointed by George W. Bush) was in response to a suit brought by Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups in the state, focusing on two of the medical restrictions imposed by the law. First, a requirement that abortion-providing clinics have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles. And second, a series of restrictions on drug-induced abortions.
The admitting privileges provision alone would have forced the closure of at least a third of the state's clinics. One clinic representative testified at the trial, for instance, that many hospitals in the state are refusing to take applications from abortion doctors for admitting privileges. Those who have accepted applications, the representative stated, haven't yet made decisions on those applications. In the decision, Judge Yeakel wrote that the admitting privileges restriction was "without a rational basis, and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a non-viable fetus," a right protected by current law. On the measures restricting chemical abortions, the decision was more limited. Yeakel noted that those restrictions would place an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion only if a doctor determined that such a procedure was necessary to save her life.
State officials, who argued that the laws are designed to protect the life of the mother and the fetus, are expected to file an emergency appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court has a record of upholding abortion-restricting laws. If the laws go into effect, Texas would have some of the toughest anti-abortion laws in the country.
The full decision is below.
This post on a developing story was updated with new information, and for clarity.