In a ruling today, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down as unconstitutional two provisions of Texas' omnibus anti-abortion bill, House Bill 2 (HB2). Judge Yeakel blocked the requirement—set to take effect on September 1— that all abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), or mini-hospitals. He also enjoined the admitting privileges provision of the law, ruling that both medically unnecessary requirements place an undue burden on women seeking abortion in Texas. In the sweeping decision, Judge Yeakel writes:
The clinic closings attributable to the act’s two requirements will undeniably reduce meaningful access to abortion care for women throughout Texas…House Bill 2’s ambulatory-surgical-center requirement burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United State Constitution of the 40 years since Roe v. Wade.
When viewed in the context of the other state-imposed obstacles a woman faces when seeking an abortion in Texas—including a sonogram requirement, a waiting period, the reduced number of abortion-performing physicians resulting from the admitting privilege requirement—the court is firmly convinced that the State has placed unreasonable obstacles in the path of woman’s ability to obtain a previability abortion. These substantial obstacles have reached a tipping point that threatens to “chip away at the private choice shielded by Roe”...
Abortion is one of the safest outpatient procedures, with a 0.05% complication rate. And though the scathing decision emphasized the court's findings that the admitting privileges and ASC requirements do not protect the health of women or increase the safety of abortion, Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit immediately after the ruling came down.
Since the enactment of HB2 last summer, Texans have experienced a rapid decline in access to safe, legal and timely abortion care. HB2 has already forced half of Texas abortion clinics to close—down from 41 in June 2013 to 20 in June 2014—eliminating abortion care across huge swaths of the state. If the ASC provision of the law were to take effect, Texas would be left with just six or seven abortion providers in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, with no abortion providers in the Rio Grande Valley or West Texas.
In response to Judge Yeakel’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Lakey, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas Executive Director Heather Busby released the following statement:
There was no justification for the medically unnecessary regulations in HB2, no demonstrated problem with safety in our state’s already well-regulated abortion clinics. In fact, state records demonstrated the opposite: that abortion is one of the safest outpatient procedures in the state. Yet despite an overwhelming outcry from the public, lawmakers forced the bill through based on lies.
Just like the anti-choice leadership in the Texas Legislature, Attorney General Greg Abbott is determined to take away Texans’ ability to make this personal decision for themselves. Greg Abbott, like Rick Perry and Dan Patrick, wish to eradicate access to safe, legal and timely abortion care. We’re pleased that Judge Yeakel listened to the plaintiffs' experts and realized that in defending HB2, Greg Abbott’s team relied not on facts but on dangerous ideology that harms the health and safety of Texas families.
HB2 was not designed to protect women's health and safety, but to eliminate access to safe and legal abortions across the state. Sign our petition and let the Texas lawmakers that passed HB2 know that you won't be lied to. It's time to put an end to this reproductive health catastrophe.
You can read the full opinion below:
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