Most of Texas' sweeping anti-abortion law has already gone into effect. The ban on the procedure after 20 weeks post-fertilization, the requirement that clinics meet the standards laid out for ambulatory surgical center, the mandatory reliance on outdated FDA guidelines on abortion-inducing drugs--all scooted from Governor Perry's desk to reality unimpeded.
The story was different for the rule that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The day before the provision was set to go into effect, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel declared it an "undue burden" on Texas women and struck it down as unconstitutional.
Yeakel's permanent injunction lasted all of three days. Thursday evening, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled that the admitting-privileges requirement can go into effect immediately.
The opinion isn't the court's final verdict on the rule, which will come later, but it's a suggestion of what the ultimate outcome will be. The state of Texas, arguing that the law is a constitutional attempt to protect women's health, is probably right and "has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits," the justices rule.
Yeakel's decision, they write, is "one step removed from repudiating the longstanding recognition by the Supreme Court that a State may constitutionally require that only a physician may perform an abortion." The law will increase the cost of the procedure and reduce the number of doctors available to perform it, they acknowledge, but it does not "impose a substantial obstacle to abortions."
Their decision means that at least 12 abortion clinics will no longer be able to operate as of today, according to the Associated Press.
Naturally, Planned Parenthood disagrees. National president Cecile Richards issued a statement on Thursday declaring the fight "far from over," maintaining that the measure "clearly violates Texas women's constitutional rights by drastically reducing access to safe and legal abortion statewide."
Governor Rick Perry's response was reserved but celebratory.
"Today's decision affirms our right to protect both the unborn and the health of the women of Texas," he said. "We will continue doing everything we can to protect a culture of life in our state."
Here's the 5th Circuit's full opinion:
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