Texas abortion provider to reopen after court lifts restrictions

AUSTIN Texas Wed Sep 3, 2014 3:51pm EDT

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AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - An abortion provider in the south Texas border city of McAllen will reopen in the next few days after a federal judge last week ruled as unconstitutional state restrictions that led to its closure.

Whole Woman's Health said on Wednesday it has started to take appointments for its clinic in McAllen. The clinic had been closed under abortion restrictions in Texas that went into effect at the end of last year. The clinic stopped performing abortions in November and closed in March.

"We are here to say clearly and proudly that politicians' efforts to close our doors have not swayed us, have not discouraged us and have not subdued us," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the group's chief executive.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down the previously imposed regulations for the two cities of McAllen and El Paso requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (48 kms) of their clinics.

Yeakel said because of the restriction, women in south Texas, one of the state's poorer regions, would have to travel as much as 500 miles to go to an abortion clinic, which would be an unlawful burden.

Officials from the El Paso clinic were not immediately available for comment.

Abortion rights campaigners, along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, say admitting privileges regulations impose medically unnecessary requirements on doctors.

Texas Republican leaders who backed the law have argued the requirement reduces complications and increases patient care. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, said he planned to appeal the decision.

Judge Yeakel last week also struck down a provision that was to have gone into effect on Sept. 1 requiring clinics in Texas to have certain hospital-like settings for surgeries.

Yeakel said the so-called "ambulatory surgical center requirement" placed an undue burden on women by reducing the number of abortion clinics and had no compelling public health interests.

Before the admitting privileges regulation went into effect last year, there were 40 licensed abortion facilities in Texas. That number has dropped by about half since then and would have been reduced to eight, at most, if the ambulatory surgical center requirement had gone into effect, Yeakel cited evidence as saying.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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