- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2013

A group of Texas abortion clinics have filed a federal lawsuit against a new Texas law, saying it will force one-third of the state’s abortion facilities to close and illegally interferes with a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, asks the court to block two provisions in the law — one requiring abortionists to have local hospital-admitting privileges and another requiring them to follow “inferior, outdated and less effective protocol” in giving a drug-induced abortion.

The provisions are set to go into effect Oct. 29.

“This is no time to back down,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Friday. Several Planned Parenthood organizations are plaintiffs, along with Whole Woman’s Health and several other Texas clinics.

A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Gregory Abbott, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said the office did not immediately have a comment.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, also names several Texas officials, including Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, and county district attorneys as defendants.

The lawsuit says the law, known as Texas House Bill No. 2, has “the purpose and effect of forcing health centers throughout the state to stop providing abortions.”

The hospital-admitting privilege provision will needlessly eliminate services entirely in the cities of Fort Worth, Harlingen, Killeen, Lubbock, McAllen and Waco, the lawsuit says.

This means that women in small towns outside major metropolitan areas would have to drive hundreds of miles to get an abortion, said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project.

The lawsuit also objects to the “medication abortion” provision, which requires doctors to examine a woman before giving her the drugs and scheduling a follow-up visit with her to confirm that her health is good and the pregnancy was terminated completely. The law also orders abortionists to follow Food and Drug Administration rules on mifepristone (also known as RU-486) and misoprostol (known as Cytotec) as printed on the label.

In practice, drug-induced abortions are typically available through 63 days after a woman’s last menstrual period, the lawsuit says, but the new law “seem[s] to ban the procedure entirely after 49 days.”

This would “dramatically” restrict “women’s access to medical abortion” — plus, the requirements for a doctor visit before and after the abortion could mean “four separate trips to an abortion facility over the course of two weeks.”

Taken together, the lawsuit said, the two provisions violate the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment due-process rights and should be permanently enjoined.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, signed H.B. 2 into law July 18 after a nationally watched political battle. State Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered the bill for about 12 hours, blocking its vote. Mr. Perry, however, called lawmakers back into session, and they passed the bill.

Emily Horne, legislative associate at Texas Right to Life, said Friday that a lawsuit had been expected because, in Texas, “any abortion regulation is always sued.”

She said Texas lawmakers have paid close attention to abortion statutes in other states that have been held up in court, and H.B. 2 was “very specifically crafted to withstand a lawsuit.”

This law passed because it establishes “common sense and safety measures,” Ms. Horne added.

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