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Texas Abortion Law Blocked by Judge; State Files Appeal

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 29, 2013 11:45 AM

A federal judge has blocked a key portion of Texas' new abortion law, striking the provision requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

According to The New York Times, Judge Lee Yeakel of the U.S. District Court in Austin declared Monday that the Texas abortion law lacked "rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion" prior to a viable fetus.

What does this decision mean for abortion providers and women in Texas?

Undue Burden on Women

Texas lawmakers passed the controversial abortion bill in July, ushering in a new era of abortion-related regulations for Texas abortion providers and women's health clinics.

One of the requirements was for abortion providers to have "admitting privileges" at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. This requirement threatened to close almost a third of the state's abortion clinics, the Times reports.

In Judge Yeakel's decision, he announced that this provision of the Texas abortion law was unconstitutional because it lacked a rational basis and made it substantially more difficult for women to legally terminate their pregnancies.

Yeakel stated that the "admitting privileges" provision did not have any relation to the state's interest in getting a woman emergency care. It is in fact illegal for hospitals to refuse emergency patients regardless of their abortion provider's "status" with the hospital. So practically speaking, this law would only make it more difficult for women in rural areas from obtaining a legal abortion.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that any law that places an undue burden on a woman's right to abortion (of a pre-viable fetus) is unconstitutional. The federal court on Monday determined that the Texas law was just such an undue burden and could not be upheld.

Texas Abortion Battle Continues

Although the court struck down only a portion of the Texas abortion law, the state filed an emergency appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reports Fox News.

Other portions of the law remain untouched, including the ban on abortions after 20 weeks -- the repealing of which has become a major plank in State Sen. Wendy Davis' gubernatorial campaign, reports the Times.

As you may recall, Davis dramatically filibustered the abortion bill in June before it was eventually passed and signed into law by her current opponent in the governor's race, incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.

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