Abortion Ruling Supports Physician Judgment

An Austin federal judge blocked enforcement of a provision of the state's new antiabortion law that requires physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their facility. On Oct. 28, the day before the law was to take effect, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel also upheld a physician's judgment in the use of RU-486 by women seeking an abortion. The state immediately appealed the ruling to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and on Oct. 31, the court lifted Judge Yeakel’s injunction, allowing the state to enforce the regulations. The legal battle is expected to continue.

The day Judge Yeakel issued the injunction, Gov. Rick Perry said it "will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren't exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently. We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans."  

Judge Yeakel said hospital admitting privileges "make no difference in the quality of care received by an abortion patient in an emergency room, and abortion patients are treated the same as all other patients who present to an emergency room." He added the admitting privileges provision "does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman's health."

Another provision of the law requires women to follow a regimen approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use of RU-486. The judge said while the requirement does not "generally place an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion," it does if it bans an abortion when a "physician determines in appropriate medical judgment, such a procedure is necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother." 

Opponents of the law did not challenge two other provisions of the law. One bans abortions at 20 weeks postfertilization and took effect Oct. 29. The other provision, which requires abortion clinics to meet the same requirements as day surgery centers, does not take effect until Sept. 1, 2014. A legal challenge to that provision is expected.  

The Texas Medical Association did not take a position in the abortion debate during the legislative session but raised concerns with the legislative intrusion into the patient-physician relationship and the practice of medicine and with a legislatively created standard of care. "This bill includes determinations that should be made by the medical community and science, not by the legislature," TMA President Stephen L. Brotherton, MD, wrote in a letter to the House State Affairs Committee in June.  


Action, Nov. 1, 2013

 


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