Pro-life advocates took encouragement from a federal appeals court’s decision upholding a Texas law that strengthened health and safety requirements for the state’s abortion clinics and barred late-term abortions.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser praised the court for “upholding this common sense measure to safeguard women from unscrupulous abortionists.”
“It is an outrage that America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, would seek to undo this and other safety standards aimed at protecting women,” she said in a March 27 statement criticizing the law’s opponents.
On Thursday a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned a lower federal court's decision blocking provisions of the law.
The law, H.B. 2, required abortion clinics to abide by health requirements equivalent to those of other outpatient surgical clinics. The provisions require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
The law also prohibited abortions after 20 weeks of gestation except in cases where a pregnant mother faces a risk to her life or a serious health risk. It was passed in a special session in late 2013 following contentious media coverage focused on the filibuster of pro-abortion rights Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis, who is now a Texas gubernatorial candidate.
Supporters of the legislation argued that such health and safety regulations were necessary for the health of both the mother and the child, particularly given high profile cases of malpractice in other states. They cited the case of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell in Pennsylvania, whose negligent sanitation and safety protocols contributed to the deaths of several patients.
The law was challenged by Planned Parenthood and other Texas abortion providers. They said the health regulations would close down most abortion clinics in the state.
In October 2013 federal District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the law was unconstitutional. Texas appealed the decision, making its oral arguments before the Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in January.
The appeals court rejected the district court's ruling that the health regulations “imposed an undue burden in a large fraction of the cases,” saying that the evidence presented to the lower court “demonstrates that if the admitting privileges regulation burdens abortion access by diminishing the number of doctors who will perform abortions and requiring women to travel farther, the burden does not fall on the vast majority of Texas women seeking abortions.”
Dannenfelser attributed the law’s passage to abuses at abortion clinics.
“From Kermit Gosnell’s ‘house of horrors’ to one Planned Parenthood’s ‘meat market style’ abortions, last year the nation’s eyes were opened to the tragic reality of what goes on inside America’s abortion facilities," she said.
“Thankfully, pro-life legislators in Texas took notice and sought to protect women from such negligence and brutality in their state,” she continued.
“The consequences of championing abortion masked as ‘women’s health care’ have already proved tragic in state after state.”
The law has contributed to the closure of about one third of the abortion providers in Texas, where 19 abortion clinics remain open, Reuters reports.