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Planned Parenthood Votes Calls for New Leadership in Texas

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Texas may impose a harmful abortion restriction that a federal district court struck down last fall, which means that safe and legal abortion will continue to be virtually impossible for thousands of Texas women to access.  The decision comes before even more restrictions on safe and legal abortion in Texas that have yet to go into effect.  Laws similar to the one upheld by the Fifth Circuit have been blocked by state and federal courts in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wisconsin, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently affirmed a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Wisconsin’s law. 

The panel that ruled today includes a judge who is openly hostile to Roe v. Wade and a court that has repeatedly upheld laws that impose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion and take health care away from Texas women in need.  In a highly unusual move, last October, this court abruptly stayed a lower court’s permanent injunction issued after a three-day trial on the abortion restrictions ruled on today.  In 2012, it allowed Texas to bar all Planned Parenthood health centers from participating in a preventive health care program. Earlier that year, it upheld an especially cruel and demeaning forced ultrasound law. 

Statement from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Votes:

“This is a terrible court ruling that will severely limit a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion in Texas. The women who will be most impacted by this ruling have already lost access to birth control and preventive health care because of reckless decisions by politicians over the last several years. The latest restrictions in Texas will force women to have abortions later in pregnancy, if they are able to get to a doctor at all.

“This court ruling is not the last word. We are fighting on every front on behalf of the women across Texas who are counting on us. Planned Parenthood will continue providing services, including abortion, to women across the state, we will combat these laws in the courts, and our separate political arm will mobilize voters to replace lawmakers who champion these dangerous laws in the first place.  Recently Greg Abbott said, ‘I'm proud to say there is nobody in the state of Texas who has done more to fight to help women than I have in the past decade’ — but if this is what he means by ‘help,’ Texans have had quite enough of it."

Today’s ruling upholds a law requiring doctors who provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital — a requirement that leading medical associations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) oppose because it harms women’s health and interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, was jointly filed on September 27 on behalf of more than a dozen Texas health care providers and their patients by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Texas law firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.  In striking down the measure as unconstitutional after a three-day trial, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the admitting privileges requirement has “no rational relationship to improved patient care” and also “places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.”  Despite that ruling, a panel of the Fifth Circuit allowed the law to take effect on November 1, 2013, while the case was on appeal. Today, it has ruled that law constitutional.

In related news, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued new rules that will require that all abortions — including abortions induced by medications alone — be provided only in ambulatory surgery centers. Despite a historic outpouring of opposition reported by the San Antonio Express-News to be more than 19,000 people, the department issued rules that are estimated to force all but fewer than eight health centers statewide to stop providing abortion when they take effect September 1, 2014.  These restrictions will do nothing to protect women’s health and safety, which is why doctors and leading medical groups opposed them as well.  These facilities requirements were not challenged in the lawsuit Planned Parenthood v. Abbott.

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