Judge guns down Texas anti-abortion law

nocoathangerLast week U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel blocked a new Texas anti-abortion law (HB2) that was about to take effect. The law would have left the entire state of Texas with, at most, eight reproductive health centers. The existing clinics would have had to meet the minimum state standard for an “ambulatory surgical center” at an estimated cost of at least a million dollars each. Texas had contended the new law, like similar laws across the country, was intended to “protect” women and ensure they received the best possible health care.

Uh, no. More like no care at all.

In an article entitled “9 Facts About Abortion Rights a Federal Judge Is Forcing Texas Republicans To Heed,” Steven Rosenfeld outlines the judge’s reasons for blocking the law and includes the compelling statistics that show just how regressive the new law would have been. Most people, of course, understand immediately that 8 abortion clinics, located in Austin (1), Dallas (2), Ft. Worth (1), Houston (2), and San Antonio (1 or 2) aren’t nearly enough to serve all the women in a state the size of Texas — an area, the judge noted, that is “10 percent larger than France.”

Rosenfeld explains how the judge left no doubt about how or why he reached his decision:

“The number of women of reproductive age living in a county more than 50 miles from a Texas abortion clinic has increased from approximately 800,000 to over 1.6 million,” Yeakel wrote, referring to the part of the law that required abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of a clinic, which took effect last fall. “Women living in a county more than 100 miles from a provider increased from approximately 400,000 to 1,000,000; women living in a county more than 150 miles from a provider increased from approximately 86,000 to 400,000; and the number of women living in a county more than 200 miles from a provider increased from approximately 10,000 to 290,000.”

The surgery center requirement would double those figures. “If not enjoined, the ambulatory-surgical-center requirement will further increase those numbers,” he wrote. “After September 1, 2014, approximately 2 million women will live further than 50 miles, 1.3 million further than 100 miles, 900,000 further than 150 miles, and 750,000 further than 200 miles.”

That followed Yeakel’s citing of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey ruling which said, “A law is unconstitutional if it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion.” The precedent stated, “A finding of an undue burden is a shorthand for the conclusion that a state regulation has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Hard to dispute the numbers. But someone always does.

Following the court’s decision, Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) said:

“Today’s decision is a setback and would allow abortion facilities to continue operating under substandard conditions — that is a real war on women.”

No, Senator, substandard conditions would be coat hangers and back alleys. And the real war on women is the GOP’s unceasing effort to consign women once again to those primitive conditions.

30 comments

  1. “Judge shoots down Texas anti-abortion law”? Surface-to-air missile? I lived in Texas once, for a year. According to their vernacular, if he used a mere firearm, he would have “gunned” this law down. Texans must use military weapons to “shoot down” anything. They are precise people, when it comes to describing their destructive feats.

    1. You know, “Judge guns down Texas anti-abortion law” would have been much better. It’s what I was trying to say, and failed. I’m going to change it right now. And thank you. Maybe I should hire you to write heads for me. I’m not very good at it, and good heads are so important.

    2. Pity they arn’t so precise when it comes to executing their fellow citizens. Perhaps they should gun down their victims rather than stick needles into them. I believe they actually apply disinfectant to the areas where they plan to insert said needles, don’t want the victims to become infected?

      Is there any possibility, do you think, that Texas will ever join the 20th century; forget the 21st?

      1. Well, they aren’t alone is using the death penalty. But I do think as long as they remain so staunchly Republican, they will lag behind the rest of the country in adopting new thinking. That’s not always a bad thing. Some things have gotten too damn liberal to suit me.

        1. The problem is it’s a big state with the big metro areas more willing to move on than some of the others. Quite a spread/varieties of philosophies and views. Over generalization is a bit unfair. (And probably more independent voters than one party…we often aren’t given much choice so hold your nose and vote…it would help if people would vote in the primaries and help select better candidates rather than the same old lines…but voting is such a bother….

          1. Yep, as noted elsewhere, Texas is 10% larger than France. Not going to find any uniformity of opinion in an area that large.

            As for voting in Texas, do you have early voting? A multi-day window for voting? Mail-in ballots? Those options make it easier to get out the vote. But I understand what you’re saying about the primaries. We have party caucuses here, where people have to go to meetings to nominate and select their party’s candidates for the primary ballot. One-third of voters in Colorado are independents, and can’t attend those caucuses. It’s a screwy system. I can’t imagine what primaries are like in Texas.

            1. There’s voting daily/weekends for 3+ weeks for early voting and long early day into night for regular voting. You can vote by mail(for about a month). It’s easy if anyone is interested –
              Lots of publicizing of locations (which are everywhere. Everywhere. …you almost trip over them). Free rides to voting places…..Maybe they should hand out pony rides, hot dogs, and balloons?….sometimes there are cookies on early voting days here – homemade!
              If would help if people would show up and vote in nominating primaries that’s where we get stuck with bad candidates (caucuses which are later that afternoon/night) not as big a deal – basically confirms earlier nominating votes, generally held around 6:30 PM – but people vote for party nominations prior to that meeting so if you can’t make it, your nominated choice is already in…(caucuses at all still seems screwy to me, though)
              People watched too many TV/movies about TX – few actually realize what’s/who’s here…stereotypes get tiresome. Houston has a mayor who is a Lesbian and has been elected 3 times. The second largest gay/lesbian/transgender population in US here. The 3rd largest Muslim population in the US in Houston. A little less than a 3rd of Houston’s population is African American; over a 3rd of population is Hispanic surname/identification (although that’s from last census and it’s more now add in the Central/South Americans) less than 1/3 is a combo of: Anglos(lots of Brits, Dutch,Scots), Islanders, Vietnamese, Koreans, Pakistani, Hindu, Jewish, Chinese, Eastern European, Greek, Middle Easterners (lots of new Syrians, Iranians, and Afghanistan recently) and all of us mutts.
              Dallas probably more Anglo and Hispanic.
              San Antonio is heavily Hispanic, but still has a pretty good mix of others.
              Austin is more liberal supposedly, but really it’s a toss-up. (Lots of musicians/recording industry, IT geeks, and movie people…UT is there)
              But Waco and other smaller towns? Cowboys, and Hispanics, but also Pakistani, Asian, and groups you wouldn’t have guessed would be there are slowly moving in just about everywhere.
              But all people think is cattle and rednecked cowboys.
              And they say secrets are hard to keep

            2. Having lived next door to Texas all my life, and having relatives there, I’m well aware of the diversity. Texas is no more cattle and cowboys than Oklahoma is Indians and oil wells. But lots of luck selling that to other parts of the country.

            3. No, it’s barely the beginning. I think the appeal has already been filed.

              Dammit, I get so angry having to keep fighting for something the Supreme Court gave us 40 years ago!

  2. Kudos to Judge Yeakel PT. It’s nice to know there are still those capable of ruling on a case according to the constitution rather than the current direction of political winds. But you know the dingbats will keep coming back, just like those “have you heard the good word?” people I have to “just say no” to all the time. Perhaps those clinics can raise money for upgrades by selling Ted Cruz bobble-heads, complete with a rusty coat hanger, just in case… 😉

  3. Clever title.
    All of us knew this would happen – for multiple reasons
    Realistically, it’s over 50 miles from the outer edge of Houston to the downtown med center. Distance is not a big thing here….I used to drive over 120 miles a day making calls around Houston metro area – if went to outer suburbs( Galveston, Katy, Pearland, Sugarland, Tomball, Woodlands/Conroe/Huntsville…) it was more. Big long drives not unusual – lots of space here.
    I would prefer that the clinics be given a 2 year period to get in facility compliance. Prepared and well equipted is good. Money would come in for this. But there must be time to gather it.
    And I do feel that there should be a person on board each clinic with admitting priv. at the closest hospital – if something goes wrong you want the woman to be transported with the person doing the procedure that knows exactly what is going on and taken immediately into OR without delays with explanations/forms in the ER….every minute counts. Things do go wrong (Joan RIvers is the perfect example of a clinic procedure gone bad)
    I am more concerned about some of the other “requirements” like ultrasounds, waiting periods, “talks” about the fetus/baby, heartbeats….all of which are cruel and stressful at a difficult time. (and designed to inflict mental trauma…and that’s not really healthy or good for women, right guys? You are all about making healthcare better for women, right?)
    Perhaps some of the rabid men who seem to want to make unrealistic decisions about something that they should really shut their mouth over will stop with their agenda and get back to making life safer and healthier for woman…who should really be the only ones making rules about this.
    Why does politics have to keep throwing up roadblocks? It’s people’s live….not some issue for political fund raising

    1. I’ll take a victory any way I can get it, on whatever grounds. This was just another example of many trumped up “requirements” to “protect women” that were actually intended to discourage or limit access to abortions.

      The Texas clinics were perfectly acceptable before this law was passed. This raising of the bar was just another tactic to force some of them to shut down. Same with the admitting privileges that were not an issue before this law was passed.

      Sure, having admitting privileges at the nearest hospital makes sense for any doctor. Requiring that the hospital be within 30 miles, as this law did, is ridiculous on its face. Hospitals are much, much farther apart than that in rural areas of most states. It was just another excuse to shut down any clinic that wasn’t within 30 miles of a metro area large enough to have a hospital.

      The Guardian has an excellent article with an interesting map showing what HB2 has done to the clinics in Texas, and notes that while the nearest clinic may be across state lines, a recent ruling in Mississippi said a state may not abdicate its abortion responsibilities to another state.

      1. like you said – too many obstacle put in for the wrong reasons. Mileage needs to be adjusted – and time to get up to standards needs to be given. Some of those clinic do need some work. Admitting priv in best interests of all.
        Mississippi is a whole different game – and insane.

          1. We knew this one would be (reasonably) challenged before the ink was dry.
            I think it’s all politics and showing effort – not really shutting them. My confusion is to why the complaint is not about the miles, but asking for McAllen and El Paso clinics to get waivers – their docs lost admit. priv to the hospitals…and the clinics want them to keep working anyway. Both of those cities have good medical centers and lots of docs….when one loses priv.- the reasons I know why that happens isn’t good and I wouldn’t want anyone who lost priv. anywhere near me or anyone I knew…but don’t know the specifics.
            Meanwhile, all the clinic should have defib. devices – those are mandatory for all the high schools even. Perhaps Planned Parenthood’s new multi-state regional fancy mega office here on prime real estate by major freeway and U of H could forgo a couple of billboards and use that budget money to pay for/lease equipment to clinics…or they know who to call to get donations/start fundraising.
            Couldn’t clinics use docs on call even virtual ones with iPads/cell phone face to face/go pro cameras like they do for remote surgeries in space, the north and south pole research centers, long distance docs in one place with patient in rural area or other country? It’s done all the time. Docs as backups for PA/nurses. If there’s an emergency, the doc would have all the info and be able to meet patient when they arrived at hospital and go right into OR. One doc could monitor several clinics form one location.
            Possible do you think? Water flows around barriers, Women are pretty good at figuring out things, too….if we can get men and egos out of the way.
            Oh, off to the laundry wars. Hope your day is cool, breezy and bright

  4. I should not have painted all Texans with the same broad brush, and I apologize to them and to this blog’s readers and owner for my thoughtless remark.

    I lived in Dallas for one year, in 1955. I was a student in fourth grade at San Jacinto Elementary school. Suffice it to say, the students and the faculty members there left a lasting impression, but that is no excuse for transferring their behavior to the people of the entire state.

  5. RE: “when one loses priv.- the reasons I know why that happens isn’t good and I wouldn’t want anyone who lost priv. anywhere near me or anyone I knew…but don’t know the specifics.” — philosophermouseofthehedge

    Dear philosophermouseofthehedge:

    Do you see the name above this message? Are you competing for a spot on the U.S. Olympic disingenuous team?

    If you want to be taken seriously, learning “the specifics” is one fundamental requirement. It takes a minimum amount of effort, in the case of the Texas legislature, to understand its view of abortion generally, and the “specifics” it codified, all of which have the practical effect of discouraging, dissuading,or outright bullying doctors of medicine who are otherwise qualified and willing to perform safe abortions under strict rules of medical care.

    It is no excuse or justification to say that the act of the Texas legislature is reasonable, or prudent, or it reflects the will of most of the people of Texas on this issue. The United States Supreme Court removed the Texas legislature from this argument in 1973.

    The continuing saga of Texas politicians pretending that they can circumvent a Supreme Court decision is only one of many things about Texas that make the people of most other states, including me, regard Texas and Texans with disgust and contempt.

    Stop making transparent defenses for the indefensible. Mr. Mouse. I don’t have any opinion about the issue of abortion because I am a man. I say what I think, and I always try to use the most direct and explicit words I can think of to do it.

    1. Henry, there you go generalizing about Texans again …

      As for doctors and admitting privileges — There are a number of reasons why a doctor might lose his/her privileges, not all of them bad (eg, bureaucratic, political). However, the bill was not focused on whether a doctor had ever lost privileges but whether he/she had privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Many, many doctors do not practice within 30 miles of a hospital. They may have privileges at one or more of the nearest hospitals, but if none of the hospitals are within 30 miles of their clinic, they’re screwed by HB2. Which was precisely the point.

      1. I am not generalizing about Texans, I am generalizing about certain alleged “citizens” of the United States of America who just cannot get it through their boneheaded skulls that if you want to be a member of this Union, you are all in. You do not get to pick the parts of the Consitution you are willing to obey and use whatever clever tricks you can think up to circumvent the others.

        For the life of me, I can’t imagine what Congress was thinking when it allowed Texas to rejoin the United States, but at least the Army has the good sense to station sizeable numbers of infantry soldiers (the soldiers who actually fight wars on the battlefield – the “boots”, in today’s hip vernacular) all over the state.

        Other than that, all is well. Good night from Washington.

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