By Andrew Harris & David Montgomery
New Texas laws requiring abortion doctors to have local hospital admitting privileges will likely force clinics to close, compelling women seeking the procedure to travel substantially farther, a trial witness said.
Joseph Potter, a University of Texas demographer, testified for Planned Parenthood yesterday in federal court in Austin, Texas, in a trial over the group’s challenge to the privileges measure and a provision barring anyone except a doctor from administering abortion-inducing drugs.
Clinics that close probably won’t be replaced by new facilities that comply with those abortion-related regulations and others signed into law by Governor Rick Perry on July 18, Potter told U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel.
“My opinion is that is unlikely,” he said. Seventy-six family planning clinics closed after 2011 funding cuts and none of those reopened, Potter said.
Planned Parenthood last month sued to block the hospital affiliation and drug dispensing requirements set to take effect Oct. 29, arguing they unconstitutionally burden women’s rights.
Texas Solicitor General Jonathan F. Mitchell disputed those assertions in his opening statement yesterday, saying the group had no evidence to support its claims and was wrongly trying to shift the burden of proof to the government.
The legislation, Texas House Bill 2, also bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and, as of Sept. 1, 2014, requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Those provisions weren’t challenged in Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit.
“This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women,” Perry, a Republican, said in a statement announcing he’d signed the legislation.
Pro-choice demonstrators march near the Texas state capitol in Austin. Photographer: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images
Debate over the issue in June catapulted to prominence Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, whose filibuster against the bill drew national media coverage.
Davis on Oct. 3 kicked off a bid to be the first Democrat elected governor of the second-biggest U.S. state in area and population since Ann W. Richards in 1990.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a named defendant in the Planned Parenthood case, is seeking the Republican nomination to succeed Perry.
Legislative debate over the Texas abortion restrictions in June catapulted to prominence Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis, now running for the governorship, whose filibuster against the measure drew national media coverage. Photographer: Stewart F. House/Getty Images
While Planned Parenthood initially sought a preliminary court order blocking the laws, Yeakel on Oct. 8 set the case for a trial before him yesterday on the constitutional issues. Both sides waived their right to a jury.
Yeakel yesterday urged attorneys for both sides to proceed expeditiously, saying…Continued here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-21/texas-abortion-restrictions-tested-at-trial-in-austin.html