Advocacy groups plan new lawsuit against Texas abortion limits

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 02, 2014 7:38 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - Advocacy groups filed a new lawsuit on Wednesday to challenge restrictions in Texas that have caused a third of abortion clinics there to close.

The lawsuit comes days after a U.S. federal court ruled against them in a previous challenge. It was filed in an Austin federal court by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Whole Woman's Health and other abortion providers, the groups said on Wednesday.

The lawsuit seeks to block provisions in the Texas law that are due to go into effect later this year to impose surgical center standards on abortion clinics, according to the plaintiffs. It also aims to secure for two clinics that serve vast areas of the state an exemption from the hospital admitting privileges rule that went into effect about five months ago.

"It's sad that we have to turn to the courts to fight this battle but Whole Woman's Health will do what it takes to do right by the women who need us across the state," founder Amy Hagstrom Miller told reporters on a conference call.

Whole Woman's Health in the city of McAllen recently closed because its doctor could not obtain hospital admitting privileges. Reproductive Health Services in El Paso was able to secure temporary privileges, but those are due to expire next month.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled last week that Texas was within its rights to require clinics that provide abortions to have a physician with admitting privileges at an adequately equipped hospital within 30 miles.

Backers have said that admitting privileges, the ability to admit a patient for treatment at a hospital usually by being recognized as a doctor who can use hospital facilities, help to ensure continuity of care and will protect women's health.

Planned Parenthood, which brought that lawsuit, has said the requirement puts an undue burden on women in rural parts of the state where medical facilities are sparse.

It also said the requirement was unnecessary because abortion complications are rare and usually similar to those of a miscarriage, which often are treated by emergency room physicians.

From September 1, Texas will require abortion clinics to meet the structural standards of an ambulatory surgical center, even those that perform nonsurgical medication abortions. The state said this would better protect women's health.

Those opposed to the law have said this requirement amounts to a veiled attempt to limit abortions by imposing costly and unnecessary regulations.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz)