Federal Judge Deals Last Minute Win for Texas Women

Federal Judge Deals Last Minute Win for Texas Women

Judge's ruling strikes down part of restrictive abortion law that would have taken effect Monday

In a decision welcomed by women's health advocates, a federal judge on Friday struck down (pdf) new restrictive abortion regulations in Texas due to their "unconstitutional undue burden" on women.

The case focused on part of HB2 that requires abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.

If it had gone into effect on Monday, the law could have slashed the number of abortion providers in the state from just 19 to a mere 8.

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel states that in addition to the "ambulatory-surgical-center requirement [being] unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a previability abortion," the admitting privileges requirement of the law which would have been imposed on clinics in McAllen and El Paso is also unconstitutional, as it, coupled with the surgical center requirement, would have placed "an undue burden on the right of women in the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso, and West Texas."

Yeakel emphasizes the particular burden the restrictions would have placed on Texas women who do not have economic privilege. He states, "The act's two requirements erect a particularly high barrier for poor, rural or disadvantaged women throughout Texas, regardless of the absolute distance they may have to travel to obtain an abortion... Roe's essential holding guarantees to all women, not just those of means, the right to a previability abortion."

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) applauded Yeakel's decision, calling HB2 "a major violation of human rights" that would have significantly increased Latinas' barriers to health care.

In a statement issued Friday, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the organization, said, "Although we're pleased with today's decision, we know that we still have work to do in Texas. Currently there are only 19 clinics to serve the state's 13 million women, including nearly five million Latinas. We will continue to fight to ensure that every woman has access to abortion care when she needs it, regardless of her income, where she lives, or her immigration status."

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, similarly cheered the decision while stressing the health care barriers that still face women in the state.

"The court has made clear that women's well-being is not advanced by laws attacking access to essential health care, and that rights protected by the U.S. Constitution may not be denied through laws that make them impossible to exercise," a statement issued by Northup on Friday reads.

"Texas women still face serious threats to their rights, health, and ability to obtain safe, high-quality reproductive health care from reputable doctors in their communities. But at least for the moment, today's victory is vital in preventing politicians' scorched-earth assaults on women's health care from causing even more harm than they already have," she continued.

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