U.S. judge halts major part of Texas law
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[August 30, 2014]
By Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Maria Garza
AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. judge
struck down parts of a law restricting abortions in Texas, saying in a
decision on Friday that a provision requiring clinics to have certain
hospital-like settings for surgeries was unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the so-called "ambulatory
surgical center requirement" was unjust because it placed an undue
burden on women by reducing the number of clinics where they could
seek abortions and the regulations had no compelling public health
"The court concludes, after examining the act and the context in
which it operates, that the ambulatory-surgical center requirement
was intended to close existing licensed abortion clinics," Yeakel
wrote in the decision.
The requirement was to have gone into effect on Sept. 1. Under it,
clinics would have had to meet a set of building standards ranging
from widening halls to having facilities for certain surgeries that
abortion rights advocates said were unnecessary, especially when an
abortion is medically induced.
The state argued the requirement reduces complications and increases
Advocacy groups who brought the suit, including Whole Women's
Health, said abortion complications were rare. It argued the
requirement was costly and would leave almost 1 million Texas women
of reproductive age at least 150 mile from an abortion clinic.
The Texas Attorney General's office said it would appeal the
decision and expected success, especially after a U.S. circuit court
upheld the law that went into effect late last year.
For the border cities of McAllen and El Paso, Yeakel struck down
previously imposed regulations requiring doctors who perform
abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles
of their clinics.
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The Texas Hospital Association, representing more than 400
hospitals, called the restrictions unnecessary because women
experiencing abortion complications can go to an emergency room and
be treated, and did not need their abortion doctor to be on the
hospital staff for this to happen.
Yeakel said because of the restriction, women in south Texas, one of
the state's poorer regions, would have to travel as much as 500
miles to go to an abortion clinic.
Before the admitting privileges regulation went into effect last
year, there were 40 licensed abortion facilities in Texas. That
number dropped by about half since then and would have been reduced
to eight, at most, if the ambulatory surgical center requirement had
gone into effect, Yeakel cited evidence as saying.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Lisa Maria Garza in
Dallas; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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