Court upholds tough Texas abortion standards

A US court of appeals has upheld several parts of the Texas abortion law passed last summer, including the requirement that doctors at abortion clinics must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Houston Chronicle:

A panel of judges at the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and serve no medical purpose. After the lower court's ruling, the appeals court had allowed the restrictions to go into effect while it considered the case, which could ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The new law requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and places strict limits on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing pills. More regulations that are scheduled to begin later this year weren't part of the case.

In its opinion, the appeals court said the law "on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman."

Planned Parenthood, which had sued to block the restrictions, called the ruling "terrible" and said "safe and legal abortion will continue to be virtually impossible for thousands of Texas women to access."

"The latest restrictions in Texas will force women to have abortions later in pregnancy, if they are able to get to a doctor at all," Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Votes, said in a statement.

Some of the toughest restrictions in the U.S. on when, where and how women may obtain an abortion were approved last summer by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry.

Debate of the law drew thousands of demonstrators on both sides to the state Capitol in Austin and sparked a 12-plus hour filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth Democrat who succeeded in temporarily blocking the legislation's passage. Though the restrictions were later overwhelmingly passed, Davis catapulted to political stardom and is now running for governor.

The office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is also now running for governor, defended the law in court. Abbott and Perry, who is not seeking re-election in November, cheered Thursday's ruling.

"This unanimous decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women," Abbott said.

In passing the rules, Texas lawmakers argued they were protecting the health of women. But abortion-rights supporters called the measures an attempt to effectively ban abortion through overregulation.

I have never understood the objection by pro-choice advocates to parental notification laws, and health-related rules like the ones passed in Texas. Abortion is either "just another medical procedure" or it isn't. And if it is just a medical procedure, how can anyone who claims to value the life and health of a mother object to rules that ensure her safety during what any doctor will tell you is an invasive medical procedure. There are stricter rules to get one's tonsills pulled than get an abortion.

You can say that the "intent" of the law is to limit abortions, but if the result of the law is to make abortions safer, who cares what the intent of the bill's sponsors were? The only question that matters is whether the rules will improve the health and safety of women. And there's no argument that pro-choice crowd can make that contradicts that simple conclusion.

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