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Texas Abortion Law Upheld by Fed. Appeals Court

By Brett Snider, Esq. on March 29, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal appellate court has upheld Texas' recently enacted abortion laws, including requirements for abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision overturns a lower court's ruling which found that the Texas law was unconstitutional because it placed an "undue burden" on a woman's right to legally terminate a pregnancy.

What does this ruling mean for women in Texas and nationwide?

Abortion Law May Close Texas Clinics

Passed in July, the challenged Texas abortion law -- which State Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered -- added several new requirements for abortion clinics to remain in operation.

A Texas federal district court struck down portions of the law in October, including the requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. The lower court reasoned that this requirement had no rational relation to the state's interest in protecting women's health and substantially burdened a woman's legal right to end her pregnancy.

While the decision was being appealed, the U.S. Supreme Court even stepped in to ensure that the law remained in effect, leaving about two dozen counties in Texas' Rio Grande Valley without an abortion provider.

With the 5th Circuit upholding Texas' law on Thursday, its provisions are still in effect, and any clinic that cannot meet the admitting privileges requirement may be forced to close.

Other Abortion Laws in Question

In response to Thursday's ruling, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the law would "force women to have abortions later in pregnancy, if they are able to get a doctor at all," reports CNN. For its part, the 5th Circuit didn't find any evidence that Texas' government had the intent of making it more difficult to get an abortion with the new restrictions.

That may be a bit of a different story with an upcoming Mississippi case also involving an admitting privileges requirement. The 5th Circuit may not feel the same way when it considers what Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said in January: that his goal was to "end abortion in Mississippi," according to The Associated Press.

Meantime, women can still legally seek abortions in Texas, but it may be somewhat more difficult to find a licensed local provider.

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