Texas Abortion Ruling Isn’t a Big Victory for Wendy Davis

The decision blocks some regulations from taking effect this week, but the fight is far from over, both for Texas and for pro-choice activists.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, contemplates her 13-hour filibuster after the Democrats defeated a Texas anti-abortion bill in June.
National Journal
Brian Resnick and Matt Berman
Add to Briefcase
Brian Resnick and Matt Berman
Oct. 28, 2013, 12:04 p.m.

A fed­er­al judge ruled Monday that Texas’s re­stric­tions in a new abor­tion law are un­con­sti­tu­tion­al, a de­cision that will pre­vent them from tak­ing ef­fect Tues­day, as sched­uled. On its face, the rul­ing is a big boost for Wendy Dav­is and oth­er op­pon­ents of Texas’s reg­u­la­tions. But just be­cause one judge says the rules won’t fly doesn’t mean that an­oth­er won’t over­turn him. Texas At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Greg Ab­bott is ex­pec­ted to ap­peal.

Dis­trict Judge Lee Yeak­el’s de­cision stated that the reg­u­la­tions vi­ol­ated the rights of abor­tion doc­tors and would re­strict ac­cess for wo­men to abor­tion clin­ics. Of the law, he wrote, it “does not bear a ra­tion­al re­la­tion­ship to the le­git­im­ate right of the State in pre­serving and pro­mot­ing fetal life or a wo­man’s health and, in any event, places a sub­stan­tial obstacle in the path of a wo­man seek­ing an abor­tion of a non­vi­able fetus and is thus an un­due bur­den to her.”

The law would have closed a third of the abor­tion clin­ics in the state, as doc­tors in abor­tion clin­ics would have to be as­so­ci­ated with a hos­pit­al with­in 30 miles. But as The Wall Street Journ­al ex­plains it, “Many Texas hos­pit­als are likely to deny ad­mit­ting priv­ileges for busi­ness reas­ons or be­cause of polit­ic­al and mor­al ob­jec­tions to abor­tions.” Also, Yeak­el wrote that the state did not provide suf­fi­cent evid­ence for its po­s­i­tion — that hav­ing an abor­tion doc­tor as­so­ci­ated with a hos­pit­al im­proves pa­tient out­comes in the case of an emer­gency. After all, hos­pit­als can­not deny pa­tients. “The court con­cludes that ad­mit­ting priv­ileges have no ra­tion­al re­la­tion­ship to im­proved pa­tient care.”

The court or­der also blocks re­stric­tions on abor­tion drugs. Ac­cord­ing to the Hou­s­ton Chron­icle, Yeak­el said those re­stric­tions

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….

There­fore, the court con­cludes that the med­ic­a­tion-abor­tion pro­vi­sion of House Bill 2 is an un­due bur­den on those wo­men for whom sur­gic­al abor­tion is, in the sound med­ic­al opin­ion of their treat­ing phys­i­cian, a sig­ni­fic­ant health risk dur­ing the peri­od of preg­nancy fall­ing 50 to 63 days LMP.

Two com­pon­ents of the bill — a ban on abor­tions after 20 weeks of gest­a­tion and a stand­ards re­quire­ment for clin­ics — are not be­ing chal­lenged. The ban will go in­to ef­fect Tues­day.

Texas state Sen. and, as of Septem­ber, Demo­crat­ic gubernat­ori­al can­did­ate Wendy Dav­is launched a 11-hour fili­buster of the state’s abor­tion bill in June. The fili­buster, which per­sisted in the face of tough rules (Dav­is couldn’t wander off top­ic, for in­stance), helped to delay the pas­sage of the bill un­til a spe­cial le­gis­lat­ive ses­sion in Ju­ly. It also helped to rock­et her to na­tion­al polit­ic­al fame and set up her cam­paign for gov­ernor.

After the bill was passed, Planned Par­ent­hood, along with oth­er wo­men’s health groups, filed suit.

The judge in the case, Yeak­el, was ap­poin­ted to the court by then-Pres­id­ent Bush in 2003. This isn’t the first time Yeak­el has weighed in on an abor­tion-re­lated is­sue. In April 2012, he ruled that a law that would ban Planned Par­ent­hood from re­ceiv­ing state funds was un­con­sti­tu­tion­al.

But that case could be in­struct­ive: Just a few months later, in Au­gust, a 5th Cir­cuit Ap­peals Court re­versed Yeak­el’s rul­ing, free­ing Texas to im­pose the fund­ing ban.

This fight is far from over, both for Texas and for pro-choice act­iv­ists. The state’s at­tor­ney gen­er­al is ex­pec­ted to file an ap­peal to the 5th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals, which could take months to go through. While the re­stric­tions are on hold right now, there’s no reas­on to think they’re cer­tain to stay that way.

What We're Following See More »
RELIEVES MARK TONER
Former Fox Anchor Heather Nauert to Be State Dept. Spokeswoman
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS
NOT WORRIED ABOUT BUDGET NEUTRALITY
Trump Wants to Slash Corporate Rate to 15%
8 hours ago
THE LATEST
PROMISES “MASSIVE” CUTS
Trump Tax Reform Package Coming Next Week
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

President Trump today said he'll be releasing his tax reformpacakge next week around the 100-day mark of his presidency. He promised that "businesses and individuals will receive a 'massive tax cut ... bigger I believe than any tax cut ever."

Source:
ONLY BROAD PRINCIPLES
Mulvaney: Tax Reform Details Won’t Be Released This Week
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Despite President Trump's announcement that his tax reform proposal would be released this week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney now says it will be ready in June. This week's announcement will be limited to "specific governing principles."

Source:
DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
Pence Cuts Asia Trip Short For Big Week
13 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Vice President Mike Pence has cut his Asia trip short "to race back to Washington, where the Trump administration faces a critical week on tax reform and a funding plan to keep the government running, an aide said on Sunday." Pence will return to Washington on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday. Trump has a busy week ahead, as he plans to roll out a tax reform on framework, sign a number of executive orders, and works to keep the government open past Friday.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login