At the eleventh hour–a day before dozens of abortion clinics were going to be forced to close in Texas–a federal judge ruled that some of the state’s harsh new abortion restrictions were unconstitutional. While Gov. Rick Perry undercut Wendy Davis’ nearly 13-hour filibuster against a draconian anti-abortion bill in June by passing it in a later special legislative session, her work was not in vain.
Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and local abortion providers argued in court that the provision in the law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles would overwhelmingly restrict women’s access to abortion. Officials from abortion clinics also testified that they tried to gain admitting privileges at 32 hospitals, but so far only 15 had even accepted their applications and none had yet granted the admitting privileges. On top of that, the admitting privileges aren’t even necessary in the case of emergencies.
Planned Parenthood lawyers also argued that the Texas requirement for doctors to follow the Food and Drug Administration’s 13-year-old original protocol for abortion-inducing drugs, rather than more current regimens, also limited abortion access.
The court found that the admitting privileges provision was medically unnecessary but that the FDA protocol for abortion-inducing drugs was only partially unconstitutional in certain situations. Said Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards in a press release,
Today’s ruling marks an important victory for Texas women and sends a clear message to lawmakers: It is unconstitutional for politicians to pass laws that take personal, private decisions away from women and their doctors.
Unfortunately, other restrictions signed into law by Gov. Perry will still go into effect, including the requirement that abortion clinics meet the same standards as surgical centers and the ban on abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
ACLU deputy legal director Louise Melling commented on the case:
We are disappointed by the ruling on the medication abortion restriction, which ignores accepted medical practice and will force providers to use less safe methods. But we will continue to fight and explore every option to protect women’s health.
Shae Collins is a recent Pepperdine University graduate and the creator of A Womyn’s Worth, a social commentary blog that addresses interests and cultural issues of black women. She is currently an intern at Ms.