Texas Abortion Providers Challenge Omnibus Anti-Abortion Bill in Federal Court


A coalition of reproductive health organizations, abortion providers, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit Friday morning seeking to block portions of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, HB 2 from going into effect on October 29. The law was passed this summer during a special legislative session that brought thousands of reproductive rights supporters to the state capitol in opposition of the legislation, which requires doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, mandates that abortion facilities meet the requirements of surgical facilities, places strict limitations on the prescription of medication abortions, and bans abortion after 20 weeks.

“The goal of this litigation is to protect access to safe and lawful abortions for women in Texas,” said attorney Jim George, who is representing the group of abortion providers and doctors, including Planned Parenthood and independent abortion providers practicing across the state, in the lawsuit against Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and other state bureaucrats and law enforcement officials. George said HB 2’s restrictions would have a “dramatic and draconian effect” on access to abortion in Texas, and that those restrictions are politically, rather than scientifically or medically, motivated.

“Everyone needs to disabuse themselves that there is any fact or science behind the new regulations,” said George in a call with reporters Friday. The lawsuit specifically challenges HB 2’s restrictions on medication abortions, as the new law mandates that doctors prescribe abortion-inducing drugs according to a 13-year-old Food and Drug Administration label that doctors have eschewed in favor of safer and more effective evidence-based protocols. The suit also challenges HB 2’s hospital admitting privileges requirement, which the plaintiffs say does nothing to improve patient health, but does put onerous obstacles in the way of abortion providers’ ability to provide safe, legal procedures.

The Republican proponents of HB 2 claimed that the restrictions are necessary to protect the safety of Texans who seek abortions. However, the law was opposed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Texas Hospital Association, and the Texas Medical Association.

The lawsuit argues that of Texas’ 36 existing abortion providers—six of which are already licensed as ambulatory surgical centers—13 would be forced to close in October if doctors who perform abortions are required to obtain admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where procedures are offered.

George said his clients are asking that the federal court issue a preliminary injunction blocking these provisions, which would go into effect 90 days after Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed them into law, while the challenge to their constitutionality proceeds. George said he also intends to seek a permanent injunction, which if granted would prevent the law from ever taking effect.

Avoiding clinic closures for any length of time is a key part of maintaining long-term access to comprehensive reproductive health care, said Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Ken Lambrecht. “It’s a very hard uphill climb” to reopen shuttered clinics, he said, and when they close, “what we’ve seen is women will ration the care they receive, and put their children and families ahead of themselves,” putting their own health in danger.

According to the complaint, if the admitting privileges requirement is allowed to take effect, it will “cause the sole abortion facilities in Lubbock, Waco, Killeen, Harlingen, and McAllen to cease providing abortions and all three providers in Fort Worth to stop, thereby completely eliminating abortion services in those cities.” The result, according to the plaintiffs, would force women, especially in the western part of the state, to travel enormous distances to access care. “At least 1 in 12 women would have to travel more than 100 miles to obtain abortion care,” the complaint alleges. “Even for those facilities that can stay open, not all of their physicians have, or will have privileges as of October 29, meaning that they will be forced to serve more women with fewer providers, which is likely to force women to wait for an abortion, which, in turn, increases the risk of the procedure.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder, president, and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, a reproductive health-care group with five locations in Texas that have also joined the lawsuit, said that while the individual mandates of the law on their own are highly restrictive, it is their combined effect that will have the most devastating impact on abortion access in the state.

“We really have to look at these provisions in the context that they’re happening at the same time,” said Hagstrom Miller on the same reporters’ call. She emphasized that doctors at her clinics are actively seeking hospital admitting privileges, but that obtaining them by the October 29 deadline is a serious challenge.

“This 90 days to get privileges is absolutely ridiculous,” said Hagstrom Miller. “The process can take up to six to eight months to even hear back in a normal kind of situation.” But the ultimate effect is, she said, that “the responsibility is on the hospital to decide which doctors in which community get to provide which care to which women.”

The plaintiffs in Planned Parenthood v. Abbott also allege that the admitting privileges requirement is medically unwarranted because whether or not a physician has privileges is dictated in part by the nature of their practice. “Physicians who, in addition to providing abortions, also maintain active obstetric or gynecological practices, may frequently utilize hospital services and therefore maintain privileges,” the complaint alleges. “Because abortion provision is so safe, however, physicians who primarily perform abortions only rarely have a patient that needs to go to the hospital, and therefore often do not have admitting privileges. In some instances, physicians may have privileges in one location, but not in another location where they travel to perform abortions on a part-time basis.”

Furthermore, the plaintiffs allege, the requirement fails to consider the day-to-day realities of practicing medicine and, as a result, is so vaguely worded as to make compliance impossible.

The lawsuit does not challenge the state’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks, nor does it challenge the state’s ambulatory center requirements. Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they were still assessing the impact of the 20-week ban and, at this time, focused on the admitting privileges and medication abortion requirements of the law, because those will have the most immediate impact for patients in Texas. As for the law’s ambulatory center requirements, Texas lawmakers must still issue final regulations before any challenge could happen. Those regulations are expected in January 2014, with the law finally going into effect in September 2014.

If the law is not blocked, said Hagstrom Miller, the consequences for Texans who seek abortions could be dire, since HB 2 “didn’t do anything to prevent the need for abortion.”

“We’re going to have unplanned pregnancies that people are going to continue,” she said, “but the thing I’m more concerned about, as far as the public health system in Texas, is how many women are going to seek abortion care anyway. They’re going to take matters into their own hands.”

A hearing date on the preliminary injunction has not yet been scheduled.

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  • phillip howel

    “..what we’ve seen is women will ration the care they receive, and put their children and families ahead of themselves,…” WOW! what an idea, a parent making sacrifices to help their children. I never asked my parents what sacrifices they made that made it possible for their children to have a life, get a quality education, go on little vacations. I know they cared, that is why they sacrificed. Didn’t yours?

    One part of the challenge is to the requirement abortion MD’s have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their store-front business. This is for patient safety. Abortionist’s make plenty of medical mistakes that send women to the ER where doctors who know nothing of the woman’s history, have no idea why she is there in serious or critical condition must make split-second decisions to stabilize her, to save her life. The abortion doctor should be there to fix the damage he caused. Hospitals do not grant admitting privileges to abortion MD’s who are not qualified to do OB/GYN. Any MD can perform abortions, they do not have to be skilled in any field. This is about patient safety.

    There is no challenge to the ban after 20 weeks because of fetal pain. Abortion providers know there is an abundance of medical science that shows fetal pain is real, that is why they are not challenging this part of the law.

    Does anyone doubt the purpose of an abortion is to end the life of the human child that is in her mother’s womb?

    • Lizzie

      No, these are obstacles to care, and the forced birthers have admitted it.

      “One part of the challenge is to the requirement abortion MD’s have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their store-front business.”

      It’s a clinic.

      Abortion care in the United States is already very safe, and fewer than 0.3% of all abortion patients experience complications that require hospitalization. The risk of dying from a legal abortion in the first trimester—when almost nine in 10 abortions are performed—is no more than four in a million

      “Hospitals do not grant admitting privileges to abortion MD’s who are not qualified to do OB/GYN.” FALSE!

      ‘Most private hospitals will not grant privileges to doctors who perform elective abortions, either for religious or political reasons, and the requirement will reduce the number of doctors available.

      They also cite medical evidence that a fetus only feels pain at 24 weeks, the stage at which abortions already are banned. Most doctors currently let women take abortion inducing drugs at home and have adapted the original instructions as they’ve gained experience and reduced complications.

      Lastly, abortions are not surgery, and opponents say the surgical center requirement will place an undue financial burden on clinics.

      “Does anyone doubt the purpose of an abortion is to end the life of the human child that is in her mother’s womb?”

      No, no one doubts it. Do people doubt that the pro-life side is about punishing women and not babies?

      • phillip howel

        Perhaps I should have said: “MOST HOSPITALS…” The fact is hospitals do not allow MD’s to perform procedures that they are not trained to do, are not certified in that specialty of medicine.The most common injuries caused by MD’s performing abortions that require an urgent trip to the ER and hospitalization are perforating the uterus, tearing the birth canal and perforating the bowl. Repairing those abortion doctor caused injuries requires specialty skills, the support of a surgical team, an operating room and skilled care post-surgery none of which is found in the abortion store front masquerading as a surgical facility.

        Abortionists occasionally leave parts of the baby in the uterus which leads to septic infections that also require the care provided by doctors who are trained to treat such life threatening injury to the woman..

        You wrote: “Lastly, abortions are not surgery, and opponents say the surgical center requirement will place an undue financial burden on clinics.” A doctor gives a woman drugs that cause her cervix to dilate, administers anesthesia, inserts instruments into her body, tears apart the human being that is in her womb, administers medication to ease her pain. But this is NOT surgery? Pretending a fork is a spoon doesn’t get the soup into your mouth it just deludes the believer as to what is reality.

        “Do people doubt that the pro-life side is about punishing women and not babies?” Why would you think that? Do you know how the woman who are helped by Birthright, etc.feel about the help they received? Ever talk to any of those women?

        The one positive is your acknowledgement to this question I posed: “”Does anyone doubt the purpose of an abortion is to end the life of the human child that is in her mother’s womb?” You responded “no, no one doubts it.” Your answer says something very important. You understand abortion does kill a child. Perhaps you will visit a center filled with volunteers who help women avid abortion.When you do you will have first hand information about what the people do to help the pregnant woman.

        • Lizzie

          “The most common injuries caused by MD’s performing abortions that require an urgent trip to the ER and hospitalization are perforating the uterus, tearing the birth canal and perforating the bowl. Repairing those abortion doctor caused injuries requires specialty skills, the support of a surgical team, an operating room and skilled care post-surgery none of which is found in the abortion store front masquerading as a surgical facility.”

          citation needed.

          “Abortionists occasionally leave parts of the baby in the uterus which leads to septic infections that also require the care provided by doctors who are trained to treat such life threatening injury to the woman..”

          citation needed

          “A doctor gives a woman drugs that cause her cervix to dilate, administers anesthesia, inserts instruments into her body, tears apart the human being that is in her womb, administers medication to ease her pain. But this is NOT surgery? Pretending a fork is a spoon doesn’t get the soup into your mouth it just deludes the believer as to what is reality.”

          No. Most of abortions are performed with a pill. “tears about the human being” awww. It’s human, but it’s not a human being. And It is VERY VERY VERY rarely “torn out”. Nice try with the language, though.

          “Why would you think that? Do you know how the woman who are helped by Birthright, etc.feel about the help they received? Ever talk to any of those women?”

          ‘It’s about regulating sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure those awful sluts have consequences for having unapproved sex.

          I’ve spoken to women who have been tricked by CPCs. Is birthright religiously affiliated in any way?

          “You understand abortion does kill a child. Perhaps you will visit a center filled with volunteers who help women avid abortion.When you do you will have first hand information about what the people do to help the pregnant woman.”

          No, I understand that abortion ends a pregnancy. I understand that abortion kills a fetus/zygote/embryo. An abortion does NOT kill a child. Children have been born.

          I’d set myself on fire before I went into one of those disgusting lying CPC forced pregnancy centers.

          I have been to a Planned Parenthood, which helps a pregnant person make the decision that is best for the pregnant person, not what is best in the interests of the volunteers.

          • colleen

            I believe the citation for that is some literature picked up in the local Crisis Pregnancy Center where his otherwise unemployable wife works…..just saying.

        • fiona64

          The most common injuries caused by MD’s performing abortions that
          require an urgent trip to the ER and hospitalization are perforating the
          uterus, tearing the birth canal and perforating the bowl.

          Citation needed.

        • HeilMary1

          Mother killer, google obstetric fistula incontinence and symphisiotomies to get a clue how much more deadly childbirth is over abortion. Left-behind placenta legally murdered anti-choicer Gene Church’s first wife. Birthright dumped my best friend when her female fetus-caused face-eating cancer started killing her while her husband got away with molesting the new daughter/OTHER WOMAN!

          • phillip howel

            Lots of words that mean what?

        • jejune

          Abortion kills a potential child by denying it the ability to use someone else’s body without consent.

          Sounds fair to me.

          • Lizzie

            I’m getting maybe a little too much joy flagging you know who’s posts. I feel like she’s about to give up. (fingers crossed.)

          • jejune

            hahah yeah, she just accused me of flagging her tonight

    • fiona64

      Abortionist’s make plenty of medical mistakes that send women to the ER
      where doctors who know nothing of the woman’s history, have no idea why
      she is there in serious or critical condition must make split-second
      decisions to stabilize her, to save her life.

      That is complete, unadulterated bullshit. Gestation and delivery is 14x more dangerous than abortion.
      http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/womens-health/articles/2012/01/23/abortion-safer-for-women-than-childbirth-study-claims

      Oh, and physicians who perform abortions. *Are* OB/GYNs.

      But facts tend to mess up your rants, don’t they?

      None of this is about patient safety; it’s all about barriers to care.

    • HeilMary1

      I have no doubt your goal is to exploit unwanted fetuses to maim and murder their mothers.

  • http://www.frivjogo.info/ Friv Jogos

    It is a problem and why there are challenges and issues like that.