Appeals court decision enforces HB2 provisions

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Only seven or eight abortion clinics in Texas will remain open after Texas was given the authority to enforce House Bill 2.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that two provisions of HB2 can be enforced as the court continues to review the constitutionality of the law. 

One of the provisions in question requires abortion clinics to have hospital-grade surgical and ambulatory services was originally deemed unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Aug. 29. The other provision the 5th Circuit Court is reviewing requires doctors at abortion clinics have admittance privileges within 30 miles of their clinics. The rest of the provisions in the law have forced many abortion clinics to shut down over the past year. 

The court called Yeakel’s decision to include all of Texas in his ruling “inappropriate.”

“Though Plaintiffs sought only as-applied relief from the admitting privileges requirement, limited to two abortion clinics — one in El Paso and one in McAllen — the district court, in its final judgment, appears to have facially invalidated the admitting privileges requirement throughout Texas,” the decision reads.

The decision stated that the plaintiffs have not proven the provisions of HB2 cause “undue burden” on women seeking reproductive services. Alexander Parker, communications director of College Republicans, said in an email that he agrees with the decision.

“The opinion of the panel articulated the important balance between making sure this law doesn’t impose too undue a burden, and the very real issue of ensuring that abortion clinics are a safe environment on par with other medical institutions,” Parker said.

Katie Adams, University Democrats communications director, said in an email that the organization was “saddened” by the ruling.

“For far too long, Texas has had a climate of ignoring women’s autonomy for the sake of purely partisan politics; this is merely the newest iteration of the Republican war on women in Texas,” Adams said. “Out-of-touch conservative lawmakers, who would put blind ideology over the health of their constituents, need to be voted out of office in November.”

Lauren Bean, spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, which defended the state law before the court, praised the decision.

“This decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women,” Bean said.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization that challenged the law on behalf of the state’s abortion clinics, said in a statement that the ruling was a pretense for politicians to say they were protecting women.

“It is an endorsement of politicians’ disingenuous tactic of undermining women’s safety under the false pretext of protecting it and of their unconstitutional intrusions into the personal, private decisions of every woman and family facing an unintended pregnancy,” Northrup said.

Correction: Due an editing error, this story incorrectly stated the appeals court ruled the two HB2 provisions constitutional. The appeals court will continue to review the constitutionality of the law.