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Abortion Clinic to Reopen in Texas This Weekend After Ruling

Greg Abbott at pro-life demonstration

Mark Stricherz - published on 09/04/14

Attorney General pledges to appeal decision.

A medical clinic in McAllen, Texas, that performed roughly 40 abortions a week will reopen by this weekend after a federal judge ruled that key parts of a sweeping 2013 law were unconstitutional, according to The New York Times.

Last Friday, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court in Austin ruled that requiring abortion clinics to meet the costly building and staffing standards of ambulatory surgery centers, as the 2013 law required, would place unconstitutional obstacles to women’s access to abortion.

The requirement, which many medical experts said was unnecessary for patient safety, was supposed to take effect on Sept. 1, and it would have forced about 12 of the state’s remaining 19 abortion clinics to close.

In Friday’s decision, Judge Yeakel also partly rolled back a rule already in effect, a requirement that abortion clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals. That requirement, also described by medical experts as irrelevant to patient safety, has caused more than 20 clinics across Texas to close.

But the Whole Women’s Health clinic in McAllen may need to shutter again if Texas political officials get their wish, according to the Dallas Morning News. The paper reported that the state’s top lawyer planned to appeal the ruling to an appellate court.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is the favorite to become governor next year, vowed to immediately to appeal to try to preserve the new clinic rules. An appeal would go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which has already upheld some provisions of the abortion law.

One of those provisions required doctors at abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Yeakel had declared that provision unconstitutional, but the 5th Circuit reversed his decision, saying that the provision did not impose an “undue burden” on women because they were still within driving distance of clinics.

Texas’ 15 bishops released a joint statement that criticized the ruling:

While the Catholic Church opposes abortion, it equally values protecting and preserving the health of women, whose lives and dignity are just as precious as those destroyed by the act of abortion.  Short of closing these abortion facilities, abortionists should meet the most rigorous, mandatory standards of medical inspections and regulation,” the Texas Catholic Conference stated.  

Mark Stricherz is based in Washington. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.

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