Planned Parenthood v. Abbott

SUMMARY

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and a Texas law firm have filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of over a dozen women’s health-care providers in Texas challenging provisions of HB 2 that restrict medication abortion and require physicians to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Plaintiffs allege that 13 of Texas’s 36 existing abortion providers would be forced to close on October 29 if physicians who perform abortions are required to obtain admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the location where abortions are performed. The Complaint states that the admitting privileges requirement will “cause the sole abortion facilities in Lubbock, Waco, Killeen, Harlingen, and McAllen to cease providing abortions and all three providers in Fort Worth to stop, thereby completely eliminating abortion services in those cities.” As a result, women—especially in western Texas—will be forced to travel enormous distances to access care: “At least 1 in 12 women would have to travel more than 100 miles to obtain abortion care. Even for those facilities that can stay open, not all of their physicians have, or will have privileges as of October 29, meaning that they will be forced to serve more women with fewer providers, which is likely to force women to wait for an abortion, which, in turn, increases the risk of the procedure.”

The lawsuit does not challenge the 20-week abortion ban included in HB 2.

STATUS

On October 28, 2013, federal judge Lee Yeakel blocked enforcement of the admitting privileges requirement, ruling that the requirement was unconstitutional but upheld as constitutional the medication abortion restriction which mandates that medication abortions be prescribed according to a 13-year-old FDA protocol except in cases where a physician determines, in appropriate medical judgment, that a non-FDA protocol is necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother. In such cases, the court ruled that the medication abortion ban places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.

Texas appealed to the Fifth Circuit and sought an emergency say of the injunction which the Fifth Circuit granted in its entirety on October 31, 2013. On November 4, 2013, the attorneys representing abortion providers filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court to block the Fifth Circuit’s ruling. On November 19, 2013, the Supreme Court refused to block the law. On March 27, 2014, a three-judge-panel of the Fifth Circuit upheld both the medication abortion restrictions and the admitting privileges requirement as constitutional.

KEY DOCUMENTS