Today in New Orleans, attorneys for the State of Texas asked the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for an immediate stay to a previous ruling that disallows regulators from enforcing new laws against abortion providers.
Earlier this summer, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the new laws were an unconstitutional undue burden on a woman’s right to seek an abortion. That District Court decision has blocked enforcement of the new law “against any abortion provider –- present or future.”
Texas accused Yeakel of making an end run around the appellate court’s 2013 decision that upheld Texas’s admitting-privileges rule, which requires that doctors gain permission to admit patients at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they perform abortions.
Women’s health advocates and clinics fighting the anti-abortion limitations said in court filings that letting Texas go ahead with the measures while it appeals would have a “catastrophic impact on the availability of abortion services” in the state.
“If a stay is granted, most of the remaining abortion providers would be forced to close overnight,” opponents of the law said in a filing asking the appeals court to deny the state’s request. “Many women’s constitutional rights would be extinguished before the appellate process ran its course, and their lives would be permanently and profoundly altered by the denial of abortion services.”
During todays’s hearing, Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell argued that Judge Yeakel used the wrong legal standard to evaluate whether or not the new standards governing abortion clinics would prevent women from seeking the procedure. Yeakel held that the new standards would create an undue burden on “a significant number” of Texas women; the State, however, is arguing that precedent dictates a much higher standard:
The appeals court previously ruled that abortion restrictions are an unconstitutional burden only if they affect a “large fraction” of a state’s abortion patients, Texas’s lawyers said in court papers. The appellate judges set 150 miles as an acceptable distance for Texas women to travel to get the procedure.
Texas countered with its own evidence that 83 percent of women would still live within the acceptable 150-mile range, so that “no more than 1 out of 10 abortion patients” might be unconstitutionally burdened by increased travel distances.
“Driving distances of 150 miles are not an undue burden, and 10 percent is not a large fraction,” Texas said in its request.
For Yeakel’s ruling to be upheld, the Fifth Circuit will have to overrule its own, recent, precedent. They have previously held that although the government cannot “unduly” weigh down with regulations the right of a woman to seek an abortion, “…driving distance alone to get to a clinic never constitutes a substantial obstacle. No matter how far.”DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.