Planned Parenthood sues Texas over restrictive abortion law

Challenge filed against controversial law that state Sen. Wendy Davis tried to block with 13-hour filibuster

Texas' controversial abortion law led to weeks of protests on both sides in Austin.
2013 Getty Images

More than a dozen women’s health providers and advocacy groups have filed a federal lawsuit to block parts of a new law restricting abortions in Texas.

Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union are among the organizations taking legal action to stop provisions that state Sen. Wendy Davis had earlier tried to prevent by means of a 13-hour filibuster. The legal challenge was filed Friday in Austin.

“We’re in court today to stop a terrible situation for women in Texas from getting even worse,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

The lawsuit challenges a provision requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and allows abortion only in registered surgical centers. It also challenges a section that limits use of the so-called abortion pill, which can be used to terminate pregnancies up to nine weeks.

Both provisions are due to take effect Oct. 29.

Critics of the controversial law say the section on admitting privileges is openly intended to shut down many of the state’s clinics. The Dallas Morning News reported earlier this month that between four and seven clinics that provide abortions would be closed under these requirements.

“This would mean that women who already are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table for their families would have to travel hundreds of miles to obtain abortion care. The law must be stopped,” the ACLU said in a press release. If the law is not blocked, it said, “women will suffer.”

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law last year a measure that would close the state’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, because of similar stipulations. The law requires every OB-GYN who works there to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The clinic filed a federal lawsuit challenging the requirement, and the judge put the law on hold so the clinic could try to comply with the rule change. But to date, the out-of-state doctors at Jackson Women’s Health Organization have been unable to get privileges.

'A united strike'

In regard to the law’s restriction of the use of abortion pills, Planned Parenthood said the new legislation would force women to follow “an inferior, outdated and less effective protocol.”

The suit will not challenge the part of the law that bans the procedure after 20 weeks — a provision that has more broad public support.

“Today’s lawsuit is a united strike back against the hostile politicians who have made clear their willingness to sacrifice the constitutional rights, health and even lives of Texas women in support of their extremist ideological agenda,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The measure was passed after a much-watched Democratic filibuster and protests on both sides of the issue at the state Capitol.

Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry said at a press conference organized by Texas Right to Life last December that an ideal world would have no abortions, but until then, “we will continue to pass laws to ensure abortions are as rare as possible under existing law.”

Among the most controversial abortion measures Perry has signed into law are "invasive" mandatory ultrasounds, excluding Planned Parenthood from the state’s subsidized health care program and banning abortions after 20 weeks.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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