A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the strict abortions standards approved last summer by the Texas Legislature.
Abortion providers had challenged two of House Bill 2’s provisions — requiring abortion doctors to gain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic, and restricting the use of abortion-inducing drugs.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin had ruled that the admitting privileges provision unconstitutionally limited women’s access to abortion while providing no discernible health or safety benefits for patients.
But a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Yeakel, ruling that the admitting privileges rule was constitutional despite testimony showing that it would force a number of abortion clinics to close.
“The district court opinion erroneously concluded that HB 2 imposed an undue burden in a large fraction of the cases,” the opinion said. “The evidence presented to the district court demonstrates that if the admitting-privileges regulation burdens abortion access by diminishing the number of doctors who will perform abortions and requiring women to travel farther, the burden does not fall on the vast majority of Texas women seeking abortions.”
The court opened one exception, ruling that Texas cannot enforce the provision against doctors who have filed for admitting privileges at hospitals that have not yet decided on whether to grant privileges. Abortion providers had complained that the state law, which went into effect last fall, did not provide enough time for hospital review of applications.