After a federal district court blocked implementation of Texas’ abortion restrictions earlier this week, a three-judge 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel granted Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request yesterday to reinstate restrictions on abortion providers. Abortion rights advocates will now request an en banc hearing of the full Court of Appeals or will appeal the decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. But in the meantime, some 12 Texas clinics that cannot meet the unnecessary requirement of the doctor having admitting privileges at a nearby hospital (a type of “TRAP” law) will close today.
Because of intense harassment from anti-abortion extremists, doctors who work at clinics often live great distances away and travel to the clinic each week. These long-distance doctors generally do not have local admitting privileges–which are unnecessary anyway, because in the rare case of an abortion emergency, the local hospital would still have to admit the patient.
“The immediate impact will be felt by low-income women who will not only lose access to abortion services but also to birth control, STI testing and cancer screening as these clinics close,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal. The closest facility for some Texas women is now three to four hours away, especially for those women living in the southwestern part of the state.
This is a “deeply disturbing court decision tonight that will hurt a lot of women–this fight [is] far from over,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, wrote on Twitter last night.
While the appeals court left in place the federal district court’s decision on medical abortion, it disagreed with the hospital admitting privileges decision. The appeals court claims that the ruling overlooked the interests of the state in regulating the medical profession, and that the 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,” reports NPR.