DALLAS, NOVEMBER 1, 2013 -- On October 28, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled on the legal challenges to the omnibus pro-life law (HB 2) passed in the 83rd legislative session, declaring a portion of the law unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately filed an appeal of this decision, seeking immediate relief from Judge Yeakel's ruling. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order on October 31, temporarily suspending Judge Yeakel's ruling, allowing the law to go into full effect today.
"This is an epic victory for life," stated Catholic Pro-Life Committee Executive Director Karen Garnett in response to the news. "While we knew the abortion industry would fight the implementation of this historic law protecting women and their unborn children, we were most hopeful that the will of Texans would be respected and honored by the courts. The Fifth Circuit's order is a very encouraging step in this direction," said Garnett.
Two aspects of the law were the subject of the lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood: the increased regulation of the abortion-inducing drug RU 486, and the requirement that abortionists have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their abortion facilities. The remaining two parts of the law -- banning abortions after 20 weeks, and requiring that all abortion facilities comply with the standards of an ambulatory surgical center (effective September 2014) -- were unchallenged. Judge Yeakel upheld the regulation of RU 486 with limited changes, but struck down the admitting privileges requirement as unconstitutional. Fifth Circuit Judges Priscilla Owen, Catharina Haynes and Jennifer Elrod heard the state's appeal of this decision and granted a stay of the lower court's ruling. The Fifth Circuit's order will allow the law to be fully implemented, with modest modification of the RU 486 provision, until a complete hearing by the Fifth Circuit on the merits of the appeal scheduled for January 2014. (Entire opinion available here.)
Regarding the immediate impact of the Fifth Circuit Order for Dallas, indications are that 3 of the 5 Dallas abortion facilities have an abortionist with local admitting privileges.
"While the Catholic Pro-Life Committee continues to seek legal protection for every unborn child from the moment of conception, we also support efforts to ensure the highest standards for the health and safety of women that is reflected in this law. We are elated that the Fifth Circuit has allowed these protections to go into effect as intended," explained Garnett.