(Adds comments from officials, background; byline)
By Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Maria Garza
AUSTIN, Texas, March 27 A U.S. appeals court
upheld a Texas law on Thursday that places restrictions on
abortions, saying a provision requiring abortion doctors to have
admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was a reasonable
Those opposed to the law have said it amounts to a veiled
attempt to limit abortions by imposing costly and unnecessary
regulations, adding that the law may be copied by other states
trying to limit abortions within their borders.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Fifth Circuit found on Thursday that a federal judge erred last
year in blocking the law. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to
go into effect but had sent parts of the case back to the
appeals court for review.
"The district court's opinion took the wrong approach to the
rational basis test," the 5th Circuit's decision said.
The law requires doctors who perform abortions to have
admitting privileges, the ability to admit a patient for
treatment at a hospital usually by being recognized as a doctor
who can use hospital facilities, at an adequately equipped
hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of their practice.
Backers said the requirement protects the health of mothers
while opponents argue it places an undue burden on women in
rural parts of the state where medical facilities are sparse.
"Requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges
would also promote the continuity of care in all cases, reducing
the risk of injury caused by miscommunication and misdiagnosis
when a patient is transferred from one health care provider to
another," the court wrote.
But Planned Parenthood, which brought the suit, said
abortion complications are rare and usually similar to those of
a miscarriage, which often are treated by emergency room
"This is a terrible court ruling that will severely limit a
woman's access to safe and legal abortion in Texas," said
Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards.
CLINICS HAVE CLOSED
Since the new law went into effect about five months ago,
about a third of the abortion providers in Texas have closed,
mostly because of the admitting privileges provision, leaving 19
clinics in a state with 26 million people.
A new set of restrictions under the law are to take effect
on Sept 1. that will impose surgical center standards for
abortion clinics, even those that perform nonsurgical medication
Only about six abortion clinics would likely be able to meet
all of the new requirements, Planned Parenthood said.
Abortion rights supporters said this requirement was
designed to shut clinics by requiring them to pay for
renovations and equipment they cannot afford.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican with presidential
aspirations, hailed the decision as a victory for "the culture
"Today's court decision is good news for Texas women and
the unborn, and we will continue to fight for the protection of
life and women's health in Texas," he said in a statement.
Texas, seen as an incubator of conservative policies, has
garnered a great deal of attention because its regulations have
stood up to court challenges.
Two neighboring states - Oklahoma and Louisiana - are
proposing similar admitting privileges restrictions, with the
Oklahoma House of Representatives approving the measure by a
wide margin last month.
The court did allow abortion providers who have applied for
admitting privileges within the state's designated time frame
but have yet to receive a decision from hospitals to continue
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh and Cynthia