Credit: Light Brigading on Flickr, under Creative Commons
(WOMENSENEWS)--The abortion rights battle opened the year in a federal appeals court in New Orleans Jan. 6 where the constitutionality of two of Texas's abortion restrictions were debated.
Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to block two of the law's provisions, the Associated Press reported.
One provision restricts how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs. The other requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed. An appeals court in December found a similar admitting privileges law in Wisconsin to be unconstitutional. If Wisconsin appeals, that case could be headed up to the Supreme Court alongside Texas, writes MSNBC's Irin Carmon.
Janet Crepps, a New York-based lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the Rio Grande Valley in Texas had two abortion providers before the law took effect and currently has none, the Associated Press reported. "Women are now forced to travel 150 (miles) or a 300-mile-round trip," she said.
In response, Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones questioned whether such a drive can be considered an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. "Do you know how long that takes in Texas at 75 miles an hour?" she asked. "This is a peculiarly flat and not congested highway."
Her comment drew widespread taunts from pro-choice advocates on social media.
— Feministing (@feministing) January 7, 2014
Judge to Texas women: Living 150 miles from an abortion clinic is no big deal if you drive fast http://t.co/t7WDLsMKJq
— ThinkProgress (@thinkprogress) January 7, 2014
Three Hostile Judges
In her overview piece, MSNBC's Carmon described the three Fifth Circuit judges on the panel as "all female, all appointed by Republican presidents and all of whom have shown a hostility to reproductive rights in the past."
A Think Progress story telegraphed the dim chances of legal challenges with its headline "Nightmare Federal Appeals Court Panel to Hear Texas Abortion Case Today." Two of the judges have already ruled in favor of the restrictions under review. The article describes Jones, the third judge, as "a fairly notorious judge who, among other things, is currently under investigation for allegedly claiming that African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed towards violence and crime.
More than 22,200 Texas women would be prevented from obtaining an abortion in the next year because of the state's new restrictions, a University of Texas study indicates, Statesman.com reported in October 2013.
Lawmakers approved the measures last year in a special session, after they were initially derailed by a filibuster by state Sen. Wendy Davis, who faces a Democratic primary in March in her bid for governor.
Carmon's piece for MSNBC quoted Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman's Health, a clinic in the Rio Grande Valley, as saying that in the wake of the restrictions doctors "are struggling to care for women who have complications from self-induced abortions."
The Texas court battle follows a two-year surge in anti-choice activism in the states. Twenty-two states enacted 70 abortion restrictions during 2013, finds a report by the Guttmacher Institute. "This makes 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of new abortion restrictions enacted in a single year. To put recent trends in even sharper relief, 205 abortion restrictions were enacted over the past three years (2011–2013), but just 189 were enacted during the entire previous decade (2001–2010)."
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