The Battle to Protect Women’s Health in Texas
Since June, when Governor Rick Perry and his cronies rammed through an extreme and dangerous anti-women’s health law—after two special sessions, a citizen filibuster, and a Texas-sized standoff—a lot has happened in the Lone Star State. Here’s what you’ve missed and where things stand:
Planned Parenthood Goes to Court
Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit—Planned Parenthood v. Abbott— with the Center for Reproductive Rights and American Civil Liberties Union to block two harmful and unconstitutional provisions of the anti-women’s health law designed to restrict women’s health and rights in the state. The lawsuit challenged two far-reaching parts of the law (HB2): 1) a provision which would require that physicians who provide abortions obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, and 2) restrictions on medication abortion.
After a three-day trial, a federal court struck down one provision of Texas' notorious anti-women's health law, with Judge Yeakel stating, “the admitting privileges provision of House Bill 2 lacks a rational basis and places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”
Another of the law's harmful provisions has been allowed to take effect—forcing medical professionals in Texas to follow outdated and less effective procedures for medication abortion, while banning it entirely for others. But that was just the beginning…
Although the federal judge in Texas had issued a temporary ruling to keep the admitting privileges provision from going into effect, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit lifted that, allowing the law to take effect immediately and setting an expedited schedule to hear Planned Parenthood’s case challenging the law in January. As soon as the court allowed this law to go into effect, many women across Texas lost the ability to make their own medical decisions immediately. Women who made the complex and deeply personal decision to have an abortion are now showing up for their doctors’ appointment and being denied a safe and legal medical procedure that has been their constitutionally protected right for 40 years.
The measure makes it virtually impossible for a third of women in Texas to access safe and legal abortion—leaving women in vast stretches of Texas with nowhere to turn. Women in the Rio Grande Valley have been left with no access, and more than 100 women had their appointments cancelled in Austin and Fort Worth, with services being suspended at a provider in El Paso.
While it’s disappointing and troubling that women are being prevented from making their own medical decisions, Planned Parenthood and the women’s health care providers who filed the original suit are continuing to challenge the law on behalf of their patients and women across Texas. They’re taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking them to stop this extreme and dangerous law from being enforced in Texas while the lawsuit challenging the law on behalf of our patients proceeds in January. The fight isn’t over; in June, this bill ignited a firestorm against the dangerous attacks on women’s health—and that outcry is only growing in the continued fight to protect women’s health.
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