[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website] on Friday struck down [AP report] a provision of a sweeping state anti-abortion law [text, PDF] that Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] signed into law in 2013. The provision, requiring Texas abortion clinics to meet hospital-level, ambulatory surgical center standards, would have resulted in the closing of more than half of the state’s 19 abortion clinics. The closings would have taken effect this Monday when the provision was scheduled to become law. Judge Lee Yeakel [official profile] said the new provision would impose an unconstitutional restriction on women’s access to abortion in Texas by imposing an undue burden on their right to seek a pre-viability abortion. Yeakel stated that the intent of the provision was to close existing abortion clinics. Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott [official website] intends to appeal this decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website], which has already upheld other provisions of the law.
Texas abortion-rights supporters and opponents have a protracted history [JURIST news archive] of battling in the state and federal courts. In April, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced [JURIST report] its filing of a lawsuit against Texas House Bill [HB2] requiring physicians performing “surgical abortions” to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and also requiring certain compliance protocols relating to the administration of drugs inducing medication abortions. The Fifth Circuit had, a month prior, upheld [JURIST report] these two provisions on a challenge from Planned Parenthood. In November 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] to allow HB2 to remain in effect while under review by the Fifth Circuit. In July 2013, Governor Rick Perry signed [JURIST report] HB2, which enacted three new restrictions on abortions in Texas. These restrictions included requirements that physicians performing abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, that the facility meets ambulatory surgical center requirements and that the allowable gestational period for an abortion be reduced from 24 to 20 weeks.