Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Appeals court ponders Texas abortion law

First Published Jan 06 2014 06:51 pm • Last Updated Jan 06 2014 08:53 pm

New Orleans • A federal appeals court heard arguments Monday on whether the state of Texas can enforce a law that led to the closing of several abortion clinics, a case that ultimately appears bound for the U.S. Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans didn’t indicate how soon it would rule on whether a district judge erred in declaring parts of the 2013 law unconstitutional.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to block two of the law’s provisions. One requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed. The other restricts how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs.

The groups say U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel correctly ruled in October that the provisions place an unconstitutional burden on women’s access to abortion. But the state argues that the new requirements promote the health and safety of abortion patients and advance the state’s "interest in protecting fetal life."

An Oct. 31 ruling by the 5th Circuit allowed Texas to enforce the law while it appealed the decision. Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Catharina Haynes, two of the three judges on the panel that stayed Yeakel’s ruling, also heard Monday’s arguments.

More than a dozen Texas abortion clinics closed after the law took effect, but some have since reopened, according to the groups opposed to the law.

Janet Crepps, a New York-based lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the Rio Grande Valley had two abortion providers before the law took effect and currently has none.

"Women are now forced to travel 150 (miles) or a 300-mile-round trip," she said.

5th Circuit Judge Edith Jones, however, questioned whether a drive of that length truly places an undue burden on women seeking an abortion.

"Do you know how long that takes in Texas at 75 miles an hour?" she asked. "This is a peculiarly flat and not congested highway."


story continues below
story continues below

Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell said the groups had no way of knowing how clinics would be affected by the law before it took effect. Jones and Haynes also cast doubt on the groups’ forecast that the privileges requirement would force at least one-third of the state’s abortion clinics to close, denying more than 20,000 women access to an abortion annually.

"Predicting the future is hard," Haynes said. "Addressing the past is far more straightforward."

The law’s supporters also accuse its opponents of overstating how many abortion providers are affected by the admitting-privileges provision.

"The Supreme Court allows states to regulate abortion to ensure women have all the information they need to make an informed decision and to make sure it’s done in a safe manner," Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said outside the courtroom after the hearing. "That’s all this law does."

Haynes pressed Mitchell to explain why lawmakers settled on 30 miles as the "magic" distance in the admitting-privileges provision.

"In a state the size of Texas, 30 miles seems a little bit short," she said.

"Their burden is to show that that 30-mile radius is unconstitutionally burdensome everywhere through the state," Mitchell said of the law’s opponents. "And they have not met that burden here."

Haynes also questioned whether a lack of abortion providers in Texas is tied to the 2013 law or results from unrelated factors.

Crepps said many doctors who have hospital admitting privileges choose not to provide abortions because they are "rightfully afraid of the violence and harassment" that other providers have faced.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.