District Court Strikes Down Part of Texas Abortion Law, Appeal to 5th Circuit;
Perry’s Response; Burka on the Challenges Facing Wendy Davis’ Campaign
Good evening from Austin.
Late again. Sometimes we are so late that we are early.
Here’s the brief:
FEDERAL DISTRICT JUDGE STRIKES DOWN STATE’S ABORTION LAW; ABBOTT APPEALS TO 5TH CIRCUIT
A federal judge determined Monday that new Texas abortion restrictions place an unconstitutional burden on women seeking to end a pregnancy, a ruling that keeps open dozens of abortion clinics across the state while officials appeal.
The ruling by District Judge Lee Yeakel came one day before key parts of the law the Legislature approved in July were set to take effect. Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers argued in their lawsuit that a provision requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital less than 30 miles away would have effectively shuttered about a third of the state’s 38 clinics that perform abortions.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose office argued the law protects women and the life of the fetus, immediately filed an appeal with the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.“I have no doubt that this case is going all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” Abbott said during stop in Brownsville, Texas, as part of his campaign to replace retiring Gov. Rick Perry.
Although several conservative states in recent months have approved broad abortion limits, the Texas ones were particularly divisive because of the number of clinics affected and the distance some women would have to travel to get an abortion.
Federal judges in Wisconsin, Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama also have found problems with state laws prohibiting doctors from conducting abortions if they don’t have hospital admitting privileges.
All the other appeals — including the one from Mississippi, which like Texas is within the 5th Circuit — deal only with whether to lift a temporary injunction preventing the restriction from taking effect. The Texas appeal could be the first that directly addresses the question of whether the provision violates the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
The admitting privileges provision “does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman’s health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion,” Yeakel wrote.
In another part of his ruling, Yeakel, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, partially blocked the provision requiring doctors to follow an 18-year-old U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol. He found that the state could regulate how a doctor prescribes an abortion-inducing pill, but the law failed to allow for a doctor to adjust treatment in order to best protect the health of the woman taking it.
Abortion-rights supporters complained that requiring doctors to follow the FDA’s original label for an abortion-inducing drug would deny women the benefit of recent advances in medical science.
Other portions of the law, known as House Bill 2, include a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and a requirement beginning in October 2014 that all abortions take place in a surgical facility. Neither of those sections was part of this lawsuit.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, said the judge did not go far enough.
“Nearly 40 percent of the women we serve at Whole Woman’s Health choose medication abortion and now Texas is preventing these women from the advances in medical practice that other women across the United States will be able to access,” she said.
The law requiring admitting privileges was the biggest obstacle facing abortion clinics in Texas, and the ruling gives them a temporary reprieve until new regulations go into effect next year.
Mississippi passed a similar law last year, which a federal judge also blocked pending a trial scheduled to begin in March. Mississippi’s attorney general asked the 5th Circuit to lift the temporary injunction so the law could be enforced, but the judges have left it in place signaling they believe there is a legitimate constitutional question.
Unlike the Mississippi case, Yeakel’s order is a final decision, setting the groundwork for the 5th Circuit to review the merits of the law, not just an injunction against it.
The proposed restrictions were among the toughest in the nation and gained notoriety when Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis launched a nearly 13-hour filibuster against them in June. She is now the only Democrat in the race for Texas governor.
Davis said the ruling didn’t surprise her.
“As a mother, I would rather see our tax dollars spent on improving our kid’s schools than defending this law,” she said in a statement.
During the trial, officials for one chain of abortion clinics testified that they’ve tried to obtain admitting privileges for their doctors at 32 hospitals, but so far only 15 accepted applications and none have announced a decision. Many hospitals with religious affiliations will not allow abortion doctors to work there, while others fear protests if they provide privileges. Many have requirements that doctors live within a certain radius of the facility, or perform a minimum number of surgeries a year that must be performed in a hospital.
Beth Shapiro, chairwoman of board of directors of Lubbock’s Planned Parenthood Women’s Health Center, said no hospital in Lubbock has granted privileges to the lone doctor from East Texas who flies in to do abortions when there are procedures scheduled. There is not incentive for hospitals to do so, she said.
“I don’t see why local hospitals would give privileges to someone who’s not going to admit patients,” Shapiro said. “I don’t see what the business and financial incentive would be.”
Here’s a statement released by Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) following the ruling:
“Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently. We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.”
BURKA ON WENDY’S CHALLENGES
Here’s an interesting item from Paul Burka’s TM blog:
What are the main challenges for the Wendy Davis campaign? Aside from the basic math of a statewide election, that is? Well, according to one trusted Democratic operative, the biggest is “to get everyone to swim in the same direction.” For instance, should Battleground Texas give up its identity and just be part of the Davis campaign? Perhaps the biggest mistake the Democrats have made was to roll out Battleground as an Obama-related organization.
Another issue is how Steve Mostyn will fit into Wendy world. Readers may recall from the 2010 governor’s race that Mostyn went off on his own, airing negative TV spots against Rick Perry, calling him a coward for refusing to debate. That was a waste of money. Perry is many things, but a coward is not one of them. Another issue for the Davis campaign, at least according to the operative I spoke with, is whether the campaign should be located in Fort Worth or Austin. The operative believes it should be in Austin, the political crossroads of Texas where the press corps just happens to be located. One piece of good news for the Democrats is that “the voter file is in good shape,” thanks to a heavy turnout in the 2008 primary election. The operative also expressed concern that people in the campaign have a tendency toward defensiveness, to show excessive concern about what they are going to be attacked for, rather than defining the Davis operation as a bold campaign that looks forward instead of over its shoulder.
All this boils down to one question: Who’s in charge here? The hiring of Karin Johanson is a necessary action for the Davis campaign, and one that will give it enhanced credibility. The presence of Johanson should bring discipline to the Davis campaign. I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t have discipline, just that discipline is needed. Johanson is perhaps best known as the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006, when her party took back the House of Representatives.
– FWST reports (behind paywall) Gubernatorial candidate and State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) had to sign an affidavit to vote as the state’s new Voter ID law forced her to do so since her name on her identification did not exactly match that on the voter rolls.
– AAS reports (behind paywall) that the Voter ID law has been “smooth” despite a few challenges.
2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will next travel to South Carolina.
– TT’s Alexa Ura reports on a proposal by gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-TX) to limit spending and the Rainy Day Fund at a stop in Brownsville. Here’s the AP report on Abbott’s proposal.
– Attorney General candidate and Texas Railroad Commission chairman Barry Smitherman released a new web ad, “Conservative Crusade.”
– Don Huffines to primary State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas).
– The Chron reports that Houston Mayoral challenger continues to self fund his campaign.
Other stories of interest:
– U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) has filed legislation to make Obamacare optional for one year.
– The 2014 Final Four is estimated to generate $276 million in spending for the DFW area.
– SAEN reports (behind paywall) that UTSA had the largest enrollment decrease in Texas.
Today’s Source of Inspiration:
– David Ortiz inspired his team before a Game 4 comeback.
BLOGS (from the left)
BLOGS (from the right)