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National Groups Take Texas to Court Over Anti-Abortion Law

Photo: Mary Tuma, License: N/A

Mary Tuma

State legislators discussed abortion and women’s healthcare at a conference last week.

As anticipated, reproductive rights groups officially mounted their legal challenge to Texas’ controversial anti-abortion legislation last Friday, beginning what they call just the “latest chapter” in a “long fight” against the draconian law.

House Bill 2, signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in July, drew thousands of citizen protestors and attracted nationwide attention to the conservative-led effort to restrict women’s health care in Texas. Taking to the grounds of the Capitol in protest, advocacy groups led an unprecedented effort to halt HB2 as it made its way through the Texas Legislature’s two specially called (and loophole-laden) sessions.

Now, reproductive freedom fighters are bringing the battle to the courtroom.

Jointly filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and George Brothers Kincaid & Horton, a Texas-based law firm, the suit represents more than a dozen health care providers who consider the law harmful to their patients and unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood v. Abbott will tackle two provisions within the omnibus bill: a requirement that compels physicians to secure admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of where the abortion procedure is performed and restrictions that force women to follow outdated protocol when taking abortion-inducing drugs–conditions they describe that will have the “most immediate” and “far-reaching” impact on women’s health. Those restrictions take effect October 29; the plaintiffs hope to win (at least) a preliminary injunction before then.

The law “imposes medically unwarranted and burdensome requirements that will dramatically reduce access to abortion in Texas,” the plaintiffs write. Women living west of I-35 and east of El Paso will be removed from real access to abortions when the legislation is fully enacted, the suit warns. It would erase at least one-third of the state’s licensed abortion centers and wipe out access to the procedure in “vast stretches” of Texas including cities like Lubbock, Fort Worth, Waco, McAllen, Harlingen and Killeen, according to the advocacy groups.

Attorneys with the national branch of Planned Parenthood are representing centers all across Texas, including San Antonio. The Center for Reproductive Rights will act for Whole Woman’s Health centers, which has a clinic in San Antonio. They claim that if the medication aspect of the law is allowed to take effect, PP San Antonio will completely stop providing abortions at two of its three centers. The same goes for the Whole Woman’s Health center in SA, if physician admitting privileges are enforced.

Overall, the legislation is widely expected to shutter all but five abortion centers in the state due to onerous regulation that reproductive health leaders affirm are unnecessary, ideologically motivated and will not have the (supposedly) desired effect of creating a safe environment for women’s health, as the Current’s August 14 cover story previously reported.

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