Federal Appeals Court Upholds Texas's Controversial Abortion Laws

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a portion of Texas's controversial abortion laws on Thursday. 

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a portion of Texas's controversial abortion laws on Thursday. The decision pertains to a lawsuit challenging two provisions passed last summer: first, a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges as a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic; and second, a restriction on drug-induced abortions. The enforcement of the first provision resulted in the closure of a number of rural clinics in the state.

The restriction was passed over the summer as part of an anti-abortion omnibus bill supported by the Republican majority in the state legislature. That bill was the subject of gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis's famous filibuster. With today's decision, it seems increasingly likely that the plaintiffs will appeal their case to the Supreme Court.

In their decision, the court found that the state was within their rights to pass and enforce the two challenged restrictions. The decision in favor of Texas makes reference to the illegal clinic of Kermit Gosnell: 

The State’s witnesses also explained that admitting–privileges requirement was needed to maintain the standard of care within the abortion practice. The specter of Dr. Kermit Gosnell informed the testimony of Dr. Love and Dr. Anderson, both of whom explained that the credentialing process entailed in the regulation reduces the risk that abortion patients will be subjected to woefully inadequate treatment.  

Frankly, this appeals court decision in favor of the state was expected: the all-female appeals panel was skeptical of the plaintiffs' oral arguments in January, and the court has a consistent record against abortion rights cases that make their way to them.  District Judge Lee Yeakel sided with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers in the state in an October decision on the law. The October decision briefly stopped the state from enforcing the provisions in question. In his decision, Yeakel argued that the Texas restrictions were passed "without a rational basis, and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a non-viable fetus." The state believes the provisions protect women in the state.

The decision contains one tweak to enforcement of the law, which requires abortion-providing doctors to apply for and gain admitting privileges from a hospital in order to do their work: the law "may not be enforced against abortion providers who timely applied for admitting privileges under the statute but are awaiting a response from the hospital," the court wrote.

Here's the full decision:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.