Federal judge strikes down key Texas abortion limits

Federal judge strikes down key Texas abortion limits

Michael Winter and Rick Jervis, USA TODAY

Restrictions were set to take effect Tuesday, but rules upheld on pregnancy-ending drugs.

AUSTIN — A federal judge Monday struck down key abortion restrictions in Texas that were to take effect Tuesday but upheld most provisions governing use of pregnancy-ending drugs.

District Judge Lee Yeakel declared that two changes to the state’s health and safety code, passed during a special legislative session this summer, unconstitutionally restricted women’s access to abortion clinics and infringed on doctors’ rights to act in their patients’ best interests.

In a 26-page opinion, Yeakel also blocked a provision requiring physicians to strictly follow follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocols when prescribing “off-label” doses of pregnancy-ending drugs, limiting their treatment options. He called the lawmakers’ action “an undue burden on those women for whom surgical abortion is, in the sound medical opinion of their treating physician, a significant health risk.”

The judge also struck down the statue that required doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic, which opponents said would force 13 of the state’s 32 clinics to close. Research by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project estimated that the regulations would prevent more than 22,000 women from accessing abortion facilities.

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Karen McCrocklin of Dallas carries a Texas flag with pink running shoes similar to those worn by state Sen. Wendy Davis when she filibustered the legislation.(Photo: Jay Janner, Statesman.com via AP)

“The admitting-privileges provision of House Bill 2 does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman’s health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her,” he wrote.

Regarding so-called medication abortion, Yeakel ordered that one provision “may not be enforced against any physician who determines, in appropriate medical judgment, to perform the medication-abortion using off-label protocol for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”

But Yeakel, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, upheld as constitutional other FDA-required procedures, which require additional doses and doctor visits, even though they are “assuredly more imposing and unpleasant for the woman.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which would rule on the merits of the law.

“I have no doubt that this case is going all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” Abbott, a Republican running to replace Gov. Rick Perry, said during a campaign stop in Brownsville, the Associated Press reported.

Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis shot to national attention when she filibustered against the measure for nearly 13 hours in June, leading to…Continued here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/28/texas-abortion-limits-unconstitutional/3288873/

 

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