Rejoice! A federal judge has just shut down parts of the HB2 devious and restrictive law that would have led to the closure of more than half of Texas' remaining clinics, deeming the rule "unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a pre-viability abortion."
In yesterday's ruling, Judge Lee Yeakel of the US District Court in Austin challenged both the ridiculous (and medically unnecessary, mind you) admitting privileges and the bunk "ambulatory-surgical-center" requirements. The surgical center provision forces clinics to undertake renovations to meet meaningless standards like plumbing and ventilation but also space utilization, staffing, and minimum square footage. It's a completely bullshit bureaucratic way to use "improved" building codes and regulations to put abortion clinics already struggling for funding completely out of business.
As Yeakel pointed out, for some odd reason, the ambulatory-surgical-center requirement also applies to clinics that only provide non-surgical, drug-induced medical abortions despite the, you know, NON-SURGICAL PART. And while non-abortion ambulatory-surgical facilities can be grandfathered and given waivers to avoid renovations, abortion clinics are prohibited from any type of exemption. In his decision, Yeakel calls this shit out:
"The court concludes that the act's ambulatory-surgical-center requirement, combined with the already in-effect admitting-privileges requirement, creates a brutally effective system of abortion regulation that reduces access to abortion clinics thereby creating a statewide burden for substantial numbers of Texas women.
Oh but Yeakel didn't stop there. Nope, he's going after the whole damn system.
To the extent that the state argues that the act's requirements are motivated by a legitimate interest in fetal life, the court finds those arguments misplaced….Here, the only possible gain realized in the interest of fetal life, once a woman has made the decision to have a previability abortion, comes from the ancillary effects of the woman's being unable to obtain an abortion due to obstacles imposed by the act.
Whoa he straight up calls out the whole "think of the unborn baby!" act. Is he done? FUCK NOPE.
If the State's true purpose in enacting the ambulatory-surgical-center requirement is to protect the health and safety of Texas women who seek abortions, it is disingenuous and incompatible with that goal to argue that Texas women can seek abortion care in a state with lesser regulations. If, however, the State's underlying purpose in enacting the requirement was to reduce or eliminate abortion in parts or all of Texas, the State's position is perfectly congruent with such a goal.
And then Yeakel dropped the mic, writing, "THE COURT CONCLUDES, I'M OUT. BWAAA BWABWABWA BWAAAAAAH ~*airhorn sounds*~" (He didn't write that.)
As glorious as this is to read, opponents have already fired up their appeals—Judge Yeakel had previously blocked the admitting privileges provision of Texas' abortion law, however, a federal appeals court upheld the requirements, a move that decimated Texas' abortion clinics. The number of abortion clinics dropped from 41 (in 2012) to 19. If an appeals court upholds the completely ridiculous ambulatory-surgical-center provision, that number will drop to seven, potentially eight.
The remaining clinics are already located in bigger Texas cities—Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Ft. Worth, Houston, and San Antonio—which is already a trek for women who live in more remote areas. If the law took effect, the clinic in El Paso would have been shuttered, leaving zero clinics in the western half of the state. And given that the ruling disproportionately affects women in poverty as well as minorities, shutting down clinics leaves them very few practical, legal and safe options. An undue burden indeed.
This comes on the heels of similar progressive rulings in Mississippi (saving the one abortion clinic left in the state) and Alabama, both deeming the law requiring abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals unconstitutional. Ladies and gentleman, another step in the right direction.
Image via Getty.