As expected, the State of Texas (Rick Perry, governor) appealed the ruling of a federal judge that blocked key parts of the states restrictive abortion law from taking effect.
The result: A third of the abortion clinics in Texas can no longer perform the procedure starting today.
A panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Thursday evening that Texas can enforce its law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital while a lawsuit challenging the restrictions moves forward. The panel issued the ruling three days after District Judge Lee Yeakel determined that the provision violated the U.S. Constitution and said it serves no medical purpose.
The panel’s ruling is not final, and a different panel of judges will likely hear the case in January. But in the meantime, Texas clinics will have to follow the order. Twelve of the 32 clinics in Texas that perform abortions don’t have doctors who have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, meaning they won’t be able to perform the procedure, though they can provide other services.
In its 20-page ruling, the appeals court panel acknowledged that the new provision “may increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider and decrease the number of physicians available to perform abortions.” However, the panel said that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that having “the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate” a law that serves a valid purpose, “one not designed to strike at the right itself.”
Planned Parenthood said the ruling means “abortion will no longer be available in vast stretches of Texas.” Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers had argued that the regulations do not protect women.
The ruling mostly affects clinics in remote parts of the state, meaning women living in those areas and needing abortions will have to travel hundreds of miles, if they are able to do so.
Meanwhile, a reminder if anyone needed it: restrictive abortion laws don’t only inconvenience the mostly mythical women who want abortions for sex selection or because giving birth would interfere with a vacation or a new job. These laws can make things vastly more difficult for people already facing agonizing choices.