Texas abortion limits ruled unconstitutional
By Rebecca Fiedler
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down one provision of Texas House Bill 2 Monday and limited another provision of it, blocking abortion laws that would have gone into effect today.
House Bill 2 was passed in July in the Texas Legislature, and would have placed various limitations on abortions and abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood and a collective body of other abortion administering clinics challenged this act on Sept. 26, claiming provisions of the bill are unconstitutional.
“Today there is no issue that divides the people of this country more than abortion,” Yeakel wrote in the district court opinion. “It is the most divisive issue to face this country since slavery.”
John Pisciotta, director of anti-abortion activist group Pro-Life Waco, said he is not shocked at the ruling because past Texas law limiting abortion administration has been shot down by the courts as being unreasonable, he said.
“I’m not surprised that this has happened,” he said. “And the real decision is going to be made. It’s going to be delayed some, and it will be made by that certain court of appeals. So our side will appeal it.”
Pisciotta said he believes the provision shot down on Monday will eventually go into effect.
Planned Parenthood representatives were unreachable to comment on the court ruling.
Bushland senior Trenton Garza volunteers with Planned Parenthood and was previously president of Texas College Democrats. Garza said he has not yet been informed of the full extent of the ruling on medicated abortion but is pleased with the ruling on the provision regarding admitting privileges.
“I’m very happy to hear about the injunction,” Garza said. “I feel like it’s the right constitutional choice.”
Garza said he believes the bill was an opportunity for the Republican party to play the game of politics in their favor, which he said he understands, but he also believes it should not be done at the expense of the constitutional rights of women.
The law was going to go into effect today, and Garza said he is glad the ruling happened when it did.
“Here it is in the nick of time,” he said.
The court struck down the provision of House Bill 2 that mandates a physician administering an abortion must have admitting privileges to a hospital within no more than 30 miles from the site of the 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,” the court’s opinion stated.
The court decided that there is no rational patient benefit of requiring hospital admitting privileges.
The court based its decisions on established government principles that a woman has the right to have an abortion before the fetus is viable; that a state law that places “undue burden” on the woman seeking an abortion is unconstitutional; and that after a fetus is viable, the state has a right to regulate abortion.
The second provision of House Bill 2 ruled on yesterday concerned medicated abortion. The bill required that women seeking a drug-induced abortion must follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol, which requires that a woman must visit a physician in order for the drugs to be administered.
The court ruled the law is unconstitutional only in certain patient health situations and should not be abolished completely.
“The medication-abortion provisions do not fail constitutional review because of the lack of a specific health-of-the-mother exception,” the court opinion states. “Rather, the medication abortion provisions may not be enforced against any physician who determines, in appropriate medical judgment, to perform a medication-abortion using the off-label protocol for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”
Planned Parenthood would prefer a newer protocol endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The newer protocol, termed the “off-label protocol,” lowers the amount of drug dosage for the abortion; adds an antibiotic to combat complications in the procedure; and allows for a woman to administer the abortion herself at home. The off-label protocol also mandates that a woman can wait up to 69 days of gestation for the administration of the abortion drugs, while the FDA’s protocol would limit that time period to 49 days of gestation.
No records indicate that any deaths of women have occurred related to the off-label protocol.
House Bill 2 required that FDA protocol must be followed in medicated abortion, with the exception that it allowed for the off-label standards for drug dosage.
“Planned Parenthood asserts that the FDA protocol is not as effective, is more dangerous and has more severe complications and side effects than the off-label protocol,” the court opinion states.
Planned Parenthood said the off-label protocol is the safest protocol for medicated abortions, the court opinion states.
“According to the state, the additional visit to the clinic and the additional safeguards in the FDA protocol provide an increase in overall patient safety by increasing physician-patient contact during the medication-abortion process,” the court opinion states.
The court ruled that House Bill 2’s provision regarding medicated abortion is unpleasant for women seeking an abortion, but it does not meet the standard of what is considered undue burden, as there are alternatives to abortion besides that which is drug-induced, the court opinion states.