U.S. Federal appeals court meets to determine fate of Texas abortion law

A federal appellate court heard arguments last week on whether parts of Texas’ abortion law passed in summer 2013 may continue to be enforced.

The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans didn’t specify how soon it would rule on whether a district judge erred in declaring parts of the measure, passed as House Bill 2 and signed by Gov. Rick Perry, unconstitutional.

In October, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the part of the law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility where they perform abortions places unconstitutional burdens on women seeking abortions. Planned Parenthood and The Center for Reproductive Rights joined the American Civil Liberties Union and several Texas clinics in bringing a lawsuit against the state of Texas that led to Yeakel’s decision.

Other parts of the law passed in 2013 ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers.

According to the USA Today, under the law abortion providers also need to follow a United States Food and Drug Administration protocol for providing abortion-inducing drugs.

“The FDA protocol limits the use of the drugs to the first 49 days after a woman’s last menstrual period, but many doctors have developed an ‘off-label’ protocol that permits a drug-induced abortion up to 63 days after the last menstrual period,” the USA Today reported.

The bill’s author, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Murphy),  claims that the new requirements will encourage health and sanitation of abortion facilities and patients as well as promoting the state’s interest in protecting fetal and adult life.

NARAL Pro Choice Texas, a political action committee, issued a statement condemning the regulations because they will endanger the health and safety of Texas women.

“The medical abortion protocols required in HB2 are a 13-year-old FDA label that is no longer commonly used because there is a newer, evidence-based method proven to be safer, more effective and with fewer side effects,” the PAC stated in its October release. “It makes no sense why the Texas Legislature would want to interfere this heavily into the practice of medicine and require doctors to follow protocols that aren’t in the best interest of their patients, except that the additional trips to the clinic that would be required would make it insurmountably difficult for women to afford a medical abortion.”

However, Sam Houston State University student Andrew Sanchez agreed with Laubenberg.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the decision to have an abortion, but I support this law,” senior Sam Houston State University student Andrew Sanchez said. “Previously, abortion clinics were known to have less than optimal safety conditions, and it’s a good idea to make them live up to higher surgical expectations.”

Abortion clinics statewide, including Huntsville’s Planned Parenthood, were forced to close their doors after failing to meet the law’s requirements.

Planned Parenthood did not return repeated calls for comment by press time.

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