Judge blocks part of Texas law restricting abortion

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 28, 2013 4:27 PM

By Karen Brooks

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday blocked part of a new Texas law that requires doctors performing abortions to have an agreement with a local hospital to admit patients, handing a partial victory to supporters of the right to abortion.

The Texas law, which proponents say protect women who need emergency treatment during an abortion, was the most fiercely debated proposal to restrict such procedures in the United States this year. The law, passed in July, sparked a filibuster by Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis in June that drew national attention and millions of online followers.

"The act's admitting-privileges provision is without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus," U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in his opinion.

The law had required that a doctor have an agreement with a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

While Yeakel ruled the requirement that Texas doctors have an agreement with a local hospital unconstitutional, he gave a more nuanced opinion on a second provision tightening rules for administering the so-called abortion pill.

Yeakel said that the part of the law requiring abortion providers to follow stricter federal guidelines in administering the abortion drug RU-486 could go ahead except when a physician determines there is a medical emergency to preserve the life and health of the mother.

Some other provisions of the law will go into effect on Tuesday, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks gestation. A requirement that facilities where abortions are performed meet the standards of emergency centers at hospitals is set to take effect next year.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks; Editing by Greg McCune)