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Lawsuit filed against Texas abortion bill
AUSTIN, Texas - From ACLU
More than a dozen womens health care providers across Texas jointly filed a lawsuit today in federal court on behalf of their patients to block two harmful and unconstitutional provisions of a recently enacted and deeply unpopular law that would dramatically reduce womens ability to access safe and legal abortion in Texas, threatening the health of Texas women who have made the deeply personal and constitutionally-protected decision to end a pregnancy.
Todays lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, was jointly filed on behalf of the health care providers by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Texas firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.
"This law is part of a coordinated national strategy to shut down womens health centers and outlaw abortion all across the country," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU.
"In Texas and across the nation, people are standing up to tell politicians to stop interfering in a womans private decisions. We are part of this lawsuit because Americans know that these deeply personal decisions must be made by a woman, her family, and her doctor, not by a politician sitting in the capitol."
"When Rick Perry signed this bill into law, he knew full well that it was created to limit womens medical options, not promote womens safety," said Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas. "Texans opposed this law in large numbers, and they object to ill-advised laws designed to pander to political extremes at the expense of womens health. With this suit, we continue our stand with Texas women and families to tell politicians to stop insulting our intelligence with invasive and purely political bills."
The womens health care providers are asking the court to block the provisions of Texas House Bill 2 with the most immediate impact on womens health before they take effect October 29, including:
A requirement that physicians who provide abortions must obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, which would not provide any added medical care to patients. This requirement is not applied to any other medical providers, despite the fact that abortion is an extremely safe procedure with less than half of one percent of patients seeking care at a hospital following the procedure. Abortion providers in Texas adhere to numerous regulations to uphold patient safety in the rare event of complications. This requirement could cause at least one-third of the states licensed health centers providing safe and legal abortion today to stop providing that service next month. It would completely eliminate access to safe and legal abortions in vast stretches of Texas including the cities of Fort Worth, Harlingen, Killeen, Lubbock, McAllen, and Waco.
Restrictions on the use of medication abortion, a safe and effective method to end an early pregnancy, that would require a woman to follow an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol.
"Were in court today to stop a terrible situation for women in Texas from getting even worse," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Politicians are interfering with the personal medical decisions of women who already have the least access to birth control and preventive health care. If this law goes into effect, there is no doubt it will end access to safe and legal abortion for many women, leaving some to resort to desperate and dangerous measures. We wont let that happen."
More than 130,000 women have been forced to go without preventive health care since the 2011 Texas Legislature slashed funding for womens health, and tens of thousands more are expected to go without care since Planned Parenthood was banned from the Womens Health Program last year. These researchers also found that nearly half of women seeking an abortion in Texas were unable to access their preferred birth control method in the months prior to their unintended pregnancy.
"Any one of these restrictions would have a devastating impact across the state of Texas," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Together they would be catastrophic, making essential reproductive health care services for many Texans, especially poor and rural women, practically impossible to access. Todays 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."
The provisions challenged in court today are part of a package of legislation that was signed by Gov. Rick Perry on July 18 following a series of special legislative sessions, but was opposed by 80 percent of Texas voters. Medical experts in Texas and across the country, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Hospital Association, also publicly opposed provisions in the law because they provide no medical benefit to women and will actually jeopardize womens health and safety.
Courts have blocked similar provisions in other states across the country. Admitting privileges requirements aimed at shutting down all or most of the abortion providers in Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have been halted before they took effect. State courts in North Dakota and Oklahoma have permanently struck down unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion.
The Center for Reproductive Rights represents Whole Womans Health which has clinics in Austin, Beaumont, Fort Worth, McAllen, and San Antonio; Austin Womens Health Center and Killeen Womens Health Center; Southwestern Womens Surgery Center in Dallas; West Side Clinic, Inc., in Fort Worth, Dr. Alan Braid in San Antonio; Dr. Pam Richter in El Paso, and Dr. Lamar Robinson in Dallas.
Attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America represent Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services, which provides abortions in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Waco; Planned Parenthood Womens Health Center in Lubbock; Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston; and Planned Parenthood Sexual Healthcare Services in San Antonio.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas represent the Southwestern Womens Surgery Center in Dallas, as well as Routh Street Womens Clinic in Dallas and Houston Womens Clinic.
All of the plaintiffs are represented by the Austin firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.