Texas Sued by Planned Parenthood Over Abortion Law

Planned Parenthood sued Texas challenging a new abortion law that requires providers to gain admitting privileges at local hospitals, restricts the use of abortion-inducing drugs and bans procedures after 20 weeks.

Parts of the statute, slated to take effect Oct. 29, violate Texas women’s constitutional rights to equal protection of the law by denying them access to abortions, lawyers for Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services and 11 other advocacy groups said in the complaint, filed today in federal court in Austin, the state’s capital.

The law “imposes medically unwarranted and burdensome requirements that will dramatically reduce access to abortion in Texas,” attorneys for the groups opposing the measure said.

Texas is among several states facing legal battles over new abortion restrictions such as hospital-privilege requirements for providers. Judges in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wisconsin have issued orders stopping similar laws from being implemented after finding that they might result in substantial burdens for women seeking to end pregnancies.

Advocacy groups are targeting those restrictions saying that doctors who perform abortions often have difficulty obtaining hospital privileges because they can’t meet certain terms, such as a minimum number of patient admissions, American Civil Liberties Union lawyers have previously said.

Religious Objections

Hospitals may also have religious objections to offering admission privileges to abortion providers, the groups contend.

Charlie Castillo, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, signed the abortion-restriction bill into law July 18. The measure bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy and dictates when abortion-inducing drugs can be used.

Medical abortions, performed through the use of so-called morning-after pills, are banned after the seventh week of pregnancy under the law. Only doctors can prescribe the abortion medicines and they must be taken in clinics, not at home.

The law also requires abortion clinics to provide facilities equivalent to outpatient-surgical centers. Critics say only a handful of Texas’s current abortion clinics meet the new requirements and the law will require millions of dollars in upgrades or force closures.

‘Terrible Situation’

“We’re in court today to stop a terrible situation for women in Texas from getting even worse,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an e-mailed statement. “If this law goes into effect, there is no doubt it will end access to safe and legal abortion for many women. We won’t let that happen.”

Richards, the daughter of the late Texas governor Ann Richards, a Democrat, said at a press conference after the suit was filed that the “vast majority of Texans don’t support these restrictions and neither do doctors.”

Nancy Northup, chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion-rights organization, said the law interferes with women’s ability to make their own medical decisions.

“Any one of these restrictions would have had a devastating impact on women across the state of Texas,” she said at the press conference. “Together, they would be catastrophic.”

The case is Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services v. Abbott, 13-cv-00862, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (Austin).

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