The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked a lower federal court’s injunction against part of a Texas anti-choice law, which experts say will now have the result of shuttering about a third of the state’s abortion clinics.
Abortion providers and reproductive rights groups had filed suit against the state, challenging parts of HB 2, the Texas abortion bill that was filibustered, ultimately unsuccessfully, by state Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) in July. On Monday, Judge Lee Yeakel declared part of the law—the provision that requires abortion providing doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals—to be unconstitutional. The Fifth Circuit decided otherwise late on Thursday. This means that any abortion facility that is not staffed by a doctor who has admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility will not be able to provide legal abortion care.
Researchers at the Texas Policy Evaluation Project testified during court proceedings that the admitting privileges provision would block 22,286 Texans from accessing legal abortion. Because of lengthy application processes and abortion stigma, as well as religious objections to the procedure on the part of certain hospitals and hospital boards, abortion providers in Texas said during court proceedings that they have been unable to obtain the required admitting privileges in the time allotted after the law passed, and in many cases expect to be rejected outright.
One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO at Whole Woman’s Health, which runs five abortion facilities in Texas. As the decision from the Fifth Circuit came down, she tweeted that she was “devastated.”
The decision was not unexpected, however. The Fifth Circuit is one of the nation’s most conservative courts, comprised in part of one judge who has garnered praise from Rush Limbaugh, and openly anti-choice Judge Edith Jones, who has been accused of “making denigrating statements against minorities and people with mental disabilities,” and who has been put under review by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.