AUSTIN, Texas — Texas pro-life advocates have claimed victory after a federal appeals court unanimously reinstated state rules that require abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
“Legislators worked so hard to pass House Bill 2, because they are not only concerned about protecting the unborn, but also about women going to abortion clinics with sub-standard conditions and unsanitary equipment,” Elizabeth Graham, director of Texas Right to Life, said Oct. 31.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Oct. 31 reinstated a provision of an abortion law that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their businesses.
The appellate court’s ruling overturned the decision of U.S. district Judge Lee Yeakel, who had ruled Oct. 28 that the provision was unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction against it.
Abortion backers claimed the law was unconstitutional and could stop abortions at as many as 13 of the state’s 36 licensed abortion providers, including those in Fort Worth and five other major cities, where doctors have not yet secured hospital privileges.
However, the appellate court said Texas will likely succeed in defending the case on its merits. It ruled the provision does not impose an “undue burden” on the legal right to an abortion and serves a legitimate state interest in regulating doctors, the New York Times reports.
While the court said the provision might increase the cost of abortion access and decrease the number of physicians who can perform abortions, it noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that this is not reason enough to invalidate a law.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the bill into law, said the decision “affirms our right to protect both the unborn and the health of the women of Texas.”
Graham added that the provisions are “intended to keep Gosnell-like predators out of Texas.”
Kermit Gosnell, a late-term abortionist in Philadelphia, became notorious after his prosecution for killing an adult woman and several babies who survived abortions. He also faced prosecution for unsanitary and gruesome conditions in his facility, where he stored the remains of unborn babies and abortion survivors.
The Texas law also bans abortions after 20 weeks into pregnancy, on the grounds that an unborn baby can feel pain at that point. This provision was not challenged in court. Graham said that provision, which took effect Oct. 29, protects unborn children from “excruciating dismemberment.”
A challenge to the law will still proceed in January 2014, a trial that will also address increased regulations on the abortion drug RU-486.
Texas' law became a focus of national attention in June. Abortion backers highlighted Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who filibustered in opposition to the bill for more than 10 hours at the close of the Texas Legislature’s first special legislative session of the year.
The legislative session closed in controversy, with some abortion supporters in the legislature’s upstairs gallery disrupting the attempt to vote on the bill before the session closed. Perry called a second special session to pass the abortion restrictions and other laws.
Texas Right to Life’s Graham welcomed the law’s success.
“This is a historic week in Texas for the pro-life cause, for women’s health and, most importantly, for the unborn.”