feature image AP photo via theblaze.com
A federal judge struck down one provision and partially blocked a second provision of HB2 — Texas’s abortion bill which gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis filibustered against this summer — a day before the new abortion regulations were to take place in the state.
The verdict comes after eleven abortion clinics and three doctors filed a federal lawsuit last month saying the new requirements — which outlaws abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, shuts down all but five abortion clinics in the state and tightens guidelines when it comes to abortion drugs — would “dramatically reduce access to abortion in Texas.”
Although many news outlets made it seem like U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled the entire abortion law unconstitutional, that wasn’t the case.
BREAKING: Federal judge declares Texas abortion restrictions unconstitutional, blocks enforcement.
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 28, 2013
Not the best headline, AP.
This is what actually happened.
Yeakel ruled that the part in HB2 that requires doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility creates an undue burden on Texans seeking abortion. “The act’s admitting-privileges provision is without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus,” he wrote.
He partially blocked another provision that restricts pharmaceutical abortions to being administered by doctors in the first 49 days of pregnancy and doubling mandatory doctor’s visits for these drugs. Yeakel ruled it was unconstitutional for the state to ban Texans from having medication-induced abortions if it was safer for the person in a physician’s “appropriate medical judgment.”
Requirements that are still in place: abortions are illegal after 20 weeks, which took effect on Tuesday and abortion providers must meet standards of ambulatory surgical centers before September 2014.
After these rulings were made, Greg Abbott, Attorney General and Davis’ opposing gubernatorial candidate, filed an emergency motion at 2 a.m. to appeal this ruling. However the appellate court, the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, did not take action on Tuesday, leaving in place Yeakel’s rulings.
So why does this issue still matter? Texas is part of a larger scheme in the nation’s narrative on abortion. What conservative politicians and anti-choicers want is for this abortion case to take center stage in the national spotlight and go all the way to the Supreme Court to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. Amanda Marcotte at The Guardian articulates this way better than I can:
“Texas is a big state with a huge chunk of the country’s population of reproductive age women, but this ruling affects more than the state itself. This “ugly foursome” of regulations are part of a general package of regulations designed to whittle legal abortion access out of existence, a package that is being pushed by anti-choice organizations in various states. This court ruling suggests some of the limits to that anti-abortion strategy, but also, unfortunately, some of the ways that the anti-choice movement can make abortion more painful, more expensive, and more difficult to get for the women they wish to punish for wanting abortion in the first place.”
I think it’s unlikely that they will succeed in making abortions illegal altogether but it’s their intentions that counts. The fact that this issue could be even discussed by the Supreme Court again is proof how backwards-minded the right wing agenda has become. Soon the entire nation is going to be defending rights that were fought for and won. This isn’t the time for a celebration, because Texas is still the most restrictive state in the country when it comes to abortion and is just another strategy in the anti-choice playbook to limit all access to abortions.