Abortion facilities across Texas are expected to shutter after a federal appeals court upheld a state law requiring abortion facilities to meet hospital safety standards.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Texas may enforce provisions of H.B. 2, a pro-life law passed by the state Legislature and signed into law by former Governor Rick Perry.
The mandate requires Texas abortion mills to meet ambulatory surgical center standards. Facilities that perform abortions must upgrade spaces in order to comply with uniform criterion, such as minimum requirements for facility hallways, doorways, ventilation systems, and rooms.
The provision would effectively shutter abortion facilities across the Lone Star State, protecting women from unregulated and shoddy mills that only catch public attention after botched abortions or Gosnell-like barbarity.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the ruling:
“H.B. 2 both protects the unborn and ensures Texas women are not subjected to unsafe and unhealthy conditions,” Paxton said. “I am proud to have both supported this law in the legislature and defended it in the courts.”
The decision by the three-judge panel relied on the U.S. Supreme Court Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which gives states the right to curb abortion if those restrictions are “reasonably related” to a “legitimate state interest.” In a ruling released Tuesday, the court wrote:
“In plain terms, H.B. 2 and its provisions may be applied throughout Texas, except that Supreme Court precedent requires us to partially uphold the district court’s injunction of the [ambulatory surgical center] requirement as applied to the Whole Woman’s Health abortion facility in McAllen, Texas, and to uphold the district court’s injunction of the admitting privileges requirement as applied to Dr. Lynn when he is working at the McAllen facility.”
Abortion advocates claim the law’s requirements on facilities in McAllen and El Paso places an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion, forcing them to drive hundreds of miles to facilities located in San Antonio or Houston. The court, however, said women in El Paso seeking an abortion may leave the state to neighboring New Mexico, an abortion wild west where abortions are legal up to birth.
“The closest Texas abortion facility that will remain open is in San Antonio, over 550 miles away,” the court wrote. “There is an abortion facility approximately twelve miles away in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. Prior to H.B. 2, more than half of the women who obtained abortions at the Santa Teresa facility were from El Paso. The State argues the closure of the El Paso abortion facility will not impose an undue burden because women in this area can travel to the Santa Teresa facility.”
The court ruling, however, exempts the last open abortion facility in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Fifth Circuit decision overturns a lower court ruling, nullifying a decision by District Judge Lee Yeakel, who said the requirement had no compelling interest for public health. Abortion advocates vow to take the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Prior to H.B. 2, there were roughly 40 abortion facilities in the state. Yeakel said the number of abortion mills is expected to dip in the state to about eight with the new provision in effect.
H.B. 2 also requires abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges with 30 miles of their abortion facility.