Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Judge finds Texas abortion rules unconstitutional


Tough new Texas abortion restrictions are on hold after a federal judge found Republican-led efforts to hold abortion clinics to hospital-level operating standards unconstitutional in a ruling that spares more than a dozen clinics from imminent closure.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office has filed an appeal of Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin, court records show.

In his ruling, Yeakel cited other rules GOP lawmakers have recently passed in his decision to throw out requirements that clinics meet hospital operating standards.

Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new clinic requirements that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas closed come Monday, when the law was set to take effect.

However, in its court filing in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the state asked that the ruling be put on hold during the appeals process. It was not immediately clear when the appeals court would rule.

Texas currently has 19 abortion providers, already down from more than 40 just two years ago, according to groups that sued the state for the second time over the law known as HB2.

The ruling blocks a portion of the law that would have required abortion facilities in Texas to have operating rooms, air filtration systems and other costly additions that are typically only mandated in surgical settings.

Clinics called the measures a backdoor effort to outlaw abortions, which has been a constitutional right since the Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.

Under the new restrictions, the only remaining abortion facilities in Texas would have been in major cities, and there would have been none in the entire western half of the nation’s second-largest state. For women in El Paso, the closest abortion provider would be in New Mexico ­— an option the state wanted Yeakel to take into consideration, even though New Mexico’s rules for abortion clinics are far less rigorous.

“The evidence has been stacking up against the state and against the politicians who so cynically passed these laws in the name of safety,’’ said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which would have been among the clinic operators affected.

Miller said that she will now seek to re-open a clinic in the Rio Grande Valley as soon as this weekend. The clinic closed in March, leaving the nearest abortion provider more than 200 miles away in San Antonio.

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