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Women's healthcare providers in Texas have at least a temporary reprieve from the worst provision of HB 2, the law intended to shutter most of the abortion clinics in Texas. The law that launched Wendy Davis's bid for governor. A federal judge in Austin has struck down the provision of the law that requires that every abortion clinic meet the state's standards for the building, equipment and staffing for hospital-style surgery centers.
The rule "is unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a pre-viability abortion," he wrote. […]
Over all, he concluded, with the new closings that would have been forced by the surgery-center rule, many more women would be hours from a clinic. "Even if the remaining clinics could meet the demand," he wrote, the impact, between long travel times and other practical impediments many women face, would be as drastic as "a complete ban on abortion."
Judge Yeakel wrote, "The great weight of the evidence demonstrates that, before the act's passage, abortion in Texas was extremely safe, with particularly low rates of serious complications and virtually no deaths."
In his ruling, Yeakel also reinstated a block on another provision of the law that requires providers have admitting privileges in a hospital no more than 30 miles from the facility for two clinics, in El Paso and McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley. Yeakel wrote that "Even if the remaining clinics could meet the demand," the burden of travel time to those clinics as well as the practical difficulties having to travel for healthcare amounted to the equivalent of an unconstitutional "complete ban on abortion."
Davis's opponent, attorney general Greg Abbott, will appeal the decision at the first opportunity with the Fifth Circuit, the court that has reversed previous decisions overturning the Texas law. All of the clinics that were slated to close as of Monday won't have to, so far. Yeakel's ruling could be stayed by the Fifth Circuit, pending a hearing.