AUSTIN, Texas - The battle raging in Texas for equal access to abortion services took a major regressive turn Thursday evening when the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans sided with Republican-engineered anti-abortion restrictions.
The reversal came after State Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed last Tuesday's order by District Judge Lee Yeakel that a portion of the restrictive law violated the U.S. Constitution.
As a result of the federal appeals court ruling Texas can now enforce its law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. However, a lawsuit challenging the restrictions moves forward.
The appeals court ruling isn't the last word, as another panel of judges will most likely hear the case in January.
The appeals court admitted in its ruling that enforcing the law might "increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider," but called this an "incidental effect" supported in previous rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.
As the law's many opponents point out, this "incidental effect" falls with apparently deliberate force upon poor and working women, whose choice of abortion clinics in Texas has now shrunk by a third. Unlike their affluent sisters, these women must struggle to pay the costs of travel across a vast state to the few clinics that remain - making their health care separate and decidedly unequal.
"This fight is far from over," Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a media release. "This restriction clearly violates Texas women's constitutional rights by drastically reducing access to safe and legal abortion statewide."
Other provisions of the law passed this past summer ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and also require physicians, starting in October 2014, to perform all abortions in surgical facilities.
Photo: Planned Parenthood Action Facebook page