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Appeals Court Restores Texas’ Pro-Life Law Stopping Abortions

by Steven Ertelt | Austin, TX | LifeNews.com | 11/1/13 9:30 AM

State

In a big victory for pro-life advocates in Texas, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled Judge Lee Yeakel of the Western District Court in Austin and restored key portions of a pro-life law in Texas that will ultimately stop abortions and could close abortion clinics.

As LifeNews reported, the judge issued an opinion striking down two parts of a Texas pro-life law that protects women from dangerous abortions.

Abortion activists have not challenged that part of the law which prohibits the killing of unborn children who have reached the developmental milestone of being able to feel pain which substantial medical evidence places at 20 weeks, if not earlier. Nor are they challenging the requirement that all abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, noting that this portion of the law does not go into effect until September 2014.

The judge blocked part of the law that required its doctors to have the right to admit patients to local hospitals. Texas became one of several states that require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals so women can be treated when they are victimized by botched abortions. Judge Yeakel also ruled that the part of the law that requires abortion businesses to follow FDA protocol, by only dispensing the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug in person, can apply except when the life or health of the mother is in danger — even though abortions routinely put women’s lives and health at risk.

Responding to the decision, three women on the appeals court panel overturned him:

The judges, Priscilla R. Owen, Jennifer Walker Elrod and Catharina Haynes, wrote that “there is a substantial likelihood that the state will prevail in its argument that Planned Parenthood failed to establish an undue burden on women seeking abortions or that the hospital-admitting-privileges requirement creates a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion.” Furthermore, they wrote,”we also conclude that the state has made a strong showing of likelihood of success on the merits, at least in part, as to its appeal of the injunction pertaining to medication abortions.”

Texas legislated in part because Planned Parenthood’s off-label usage of the drug led to numerous deaths and injuries to women.

In staying Judge Lee Yeakel’s ruling against House Bill 2 (HB 2), the New Orleans court green-lighted the 30-mile rule.  Immediately, any doctor who seeks to commit an abortion must first secure admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.

The Fifth Circuit allowed most of the new restrictions on the abortion drug, RU-486, to go into effect.

The ban on all abortions after the unborn child reaches the five-month mark of development was not challenged and went into effect Tuesday.

Elizabeth Graham, Director of Texas Right to Life, told LifeNews she was delighted by the ruling and she applauded the work of pro-life Texas Attorney general Greg Abbott.

She said: “Legislators worked so hard to pass House Bill 2 because they are not only concerned about protecting the unborn, but also about women going to abortion clinics with sub-standard conditions and unsanitary equipment.  The provisions being challenged in court are intended to keep Gosnell-like predators out of Texas.  Ironically, one of the abortion providers for the plaintiffs testified in the hearing last week that he had secured such privileges at a number of hospitals, inadvertently helping the defense.  Our Attorney General and his team have done a masterful job in defending House Bill 2 and pursuing the law taking effect immediately.”

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“The other victory this week is that abortion is now banned at five months, sparing preborn children who feel pain from excruciating dismemberment.  This is a historic week in Texas for the Pro-Life cause, for women’s health, and most importantly, for the unborn,” Graham continued.

After the lower court ruling, Abbott petitioned the Fifth Circuit for a trial date in January of 2014 during which the full arguments on the constitutionality of two provisions of HB 2 will be heard. The Fifth Circuit’s move to overturn the injunction could signal that this court recognizes these two provisions as common sense legislation to protect the health and safety of women who are abortion-vulnerable and that the challenge has little chance of success.  The 30-mile rule has been challenged and upheld in court in other states.

Gov. Rick Perry today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to grant an emergency stay lifting the injunction against House Bill 2: “Today’s decision affirms our right to protect both the unborn and the health of the women of Texas. We will continue doing everything we can to protect a culture of life in our state.”

Joe Pojman, Ph.D., executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, also applauded the ruling:

We are pleased that the appellate court in New Orleans is allowing the two challenged provisions that increase safety standards at abortion facilities to go into effect. We agree that any abortion doctor should have the ability to treat his or her patient at a local hospital in the event of a serious abortion complication. We also agree that abortion facilities should generally follow the FDA safety protocol and that a physician should be present when the abortion pills are given to a woman.

The Legislature passed the new law by wide margins last summer. While the Supreme Court prohibits state legislatures from banning most abortions, states should have the right to protect women from dangerous abortion procedures. That is what the 5th Circuit has allowed Texas to do.

A great deal of credit goes to the author and sponsor of HB 2, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) and Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy), who drafted strong language. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and his legal team have done a magnificent job of defending the law.