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Texas' 20-Week Abortion Bill Signed Into Law

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a new abortion bill into law on Thursday. The law bars abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and places restrictions on doctors wishing to perform legal procedures.

The Texas law was initially blocked in late June by State Sen. Wendy Davis' now-famous filibuster, but Perry called lawmakers back for a special session to vote on the bill. Texas now joins 12 other states that have enacted similar bans on abortion after 20 weeks, reports Reuters.

What does this new law mean for Texas women, and will it hold up in court?

Key Provisions of Texas' Law

The centerpiece of the new law is without a doubt the 20-week abortion ban which, like a similar bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in June, makes it illegal for doctors to perform abortions past 20 weeks into a woman's pregnancy.

But that is hardly the entire law. It also requires abortion clinics to be judged under the "same standards as hospital-style surgical centers," and requires abortion doctors to have "admitting privileges" at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility, reports The New York Times. Because of that provision, all but a handful of Texas' 42 abortion clinics will likely be forced to close.

Lastly, the law prohibits RU-486 and other medications used to end pregnancies to be dispensed by anyone other than a doctor, and requires any second dosages to be performed "under doctor supervision" and not at home, reports Reuters.

Shortly after the law passed, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund tweeted that her organization believes "parts of this law are unconstitutional" and is working to block the law's effect, reports Reuters.

Any potential legal challenge would likely come from the still binding precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade (which originated from a case about a Texas abortion ban) which prevents laws which restrict access to or ban abortions.

While Roe v. Wade has been explored in later cases by the High Court, its principles remain steadfast, creating a strong protection against regulating abortions -- especially before a fetus has attained viability, when a mother's rights to privacy are at their zenith.

Similar State Bans Blocked

Detractors of this law may take solace in the fact that many similar abortion laws in Arizona, Georgia, and Idaho have been blocked by the courts before becoming effective, reports The New York Times.

Arizona's 20-week abortion ban was found in federal court to be unconstitutional in part because the law would seek to ban abortions before the point of viability, flatly at odds with Supreme Court rulings.

Arkansas' even more stringent 12-week abortion ban faces similar legal issues. Because of a federal injunction ordered in May, the law will likely not be implemented by its August deadline, according to The New York Times.

If the outcry of support for State Sen. Wendy Davis was any indication, it will not be long before this law is also challenged in federal court.

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