AP: No immediate Decision on Abortion Law Appeal;
Battleground Texas Says They’ve Made 48k Calls for Wendy;
VP Biden in Austin Wednesday, Traffic Snarl Expected;
Wallace Hall ‘Willing to Testify, But Wants Subpoena’; MRT on TV
Good evening from Austin.
Here’s the brief:
NO IMMEDIATE DECISION ON ABORTION LAW APPEAL
AP’s Chris Tomlinson reports:
A federal appeals court didn’t act on an emergency motion Tuesday that would’ve allowed some new abortion restrictions to take effect in Texas, the latest step in a lengthy battle activists on both sides predicted would end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
State officials urged the panel to quickly hear their appeal of a judge’s ruling Monday striking down a requirement that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.
But the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans did not take action by the close of business Tuesday, leaving in place — at least for now — the judge’s permanent injunction blocking the new abortion rules from being enforced.
The judge agreed with abortion-rights activists that the restrictions, which were to take effect Tuesday, placed an unconstitutional burden on women seeking an abortion and didn’t make the process safer, as state officials had argued. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed.
The provision, part of a large package of abortion limits the Legislature approved in July, would effectively force the closure of about a third of the state’s 32 abortion clinics — some the only facility within hundreds of miles where women can get an abortion. Abortion rights supporters argued most hospitals will not grant abortion doctors admitting privileges for religious, business or competitive reasons.
Before filing his appeal, Abbott — a Republican candidate for Texas governor — said he expected the case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Federal judges have issued temporary injunctions against similar laws requiring admitting privileges in Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi and Alabama, but this is the first case to get a final written decision from a district court.
For that reason, University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias said the 5th Circuit might expedite the case, but he questioned whether the Supreme Court has the appetite to consider an abortion case, and if so, would take this particular one.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which determined women have a right to abortion, has largely stood as legal precedent the past four decades, with the Supreme Court only occasionally wading in to clarify constitutional questions stemming from it. The last significant abortion ruling came in 2007, when the high court upheld a ban on partial-birth abortion that Congress approved and President George W. Bush signed into law four years earlier, Tobias said.
“This is important, but it doesn’t strike me as central to … overturning Roe v. Wade,” Tobias said of the Texas admitting privileges law.
Should the 5th Circuit disagree with the judge and allow the law to stand, it would be the latest in a long list of measures approved by Texas lawmakers and overturned by Austin judges, only to be allowed on appeal.
In court papers, Abbott and his legal team argued that District Judge Lee Yeakel overstepped his authority and misapplied the law.
“The district court took that extraordinary step without citing — much less purporting to satisfy — the constitutional standard” for making its decision, the Texas court filing said.
Janet Crepps, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights representing the abortion clinics, said Abbott’s brief relied primarily on legal arguments while her response centered on the practical effects of the law.
“If the injunction is lifted, literally thousands of women in Texas will no longer be able to access abortions,” she said. “That’s a huge harm, and there is no interest on behalf of the state that justifies denying the constitutional rights of all of those women.”
Abbott asked the 5th Circuit to expedite the appeals process, but the soonest the court could consider the case is January.
As part of the ruling Monday, Yeakel, a Bush appointee, also found the Texas Legislature could dictate how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs. However, he blocked a new drug requirement because he said it failed to allow doctors to adjust treatment in order to best protect the health of women taking it.
Planned Parenthood and the other abortion providers who filed suit did not challenge a ban on abortion 20 weeks into a pregnancy, a provision that took effect Tuesday, and a requirement starting next October that all abortions must be performed in a surgical center.
A handful of protesters gathered Tuesday morning near the Whole Woman’s Health Clinic in McAllen, on the Mexico border.
Herb Moering said he has been protesting at the clinic twice a week for four or five years. Until Monday’s ruling, he thought his days on the downtown street corner might be coming to an end. The 77-year-old complained of “liberal” judges.
Moering said he’ll be there “as long as women come and think their best option is abortion.”
If the two clinics providing abortions in the Rio Grande Valley were forced to close, women living along the Texas-Mexico border would have to travel nearly 250 miles to San Antonio.
Some women in West Texas would have to travel even farther — about 300 miles to Waco or El Paso — should the sole abortion clinic in Lubbock be forced to close.
Beth Shapiro, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Planned Parenthood Health Center in Lubbock, said she fears women in need of abortion will resort to illegal and unsafe methods if the clinic is forced to stop providing abortions.
“I think it’s always a possibility that when we limit access to abortion we are going to go back,” she said. “People will resort to pre-Roe v. Wade strategies to perform abortion — back alley procedures, which are far more dangerous than having a safe, legal abortion, a medically controlled abortion.”
BATTLEGROUND TEXAS SAYS THEY’VE MADE 48,000 CALLS FOR WENDY DAVIS
Battleground Texas executive director Jenn Brown emails:
When Wendy Davis made her big announcement on October 3rd, Battleground Texas volunteerspledged to make 48,000 calls in 48 days to help make her the 48th governor of Texas.
Well, we did it in just 25 days!
That’s amazing, but we can’t stop now. Let’s see how many more calls we can make before those 48 days are up on November 17th.
48,000 is a huge number of phone calls, but this is a big state and there’s a lot of hard work left to do — and it’s going to take a great team of dedicated volunteers to help Wendy win.
So many Texans out there are ready to get involved — sometimes all it takes is one phone call from a friendly neighbor like you to help them take the next step. Think of it this way: Every time a phone rings in Texas and a Team Wendy volunteer is on the line, this state feels a little more like a battleground. That’s what we’re after.
Pledge to make some calls and an organizer will be in touch:
BIDEN TO AUSTIN WEDNESDAY
AAS’ Katie Pascall reports:
Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Austin on Wednesday to visit the headquarters of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and commemorate National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
It will be Biden’s latest visit to the hotline he helped launch nearly two decades ago.
The U.S. Secret Service and Austin police Tuesday did not provide details of the vice president’s visit, including the time of his arrival or how long he is planning to stay in Austin.
However, drivers could see heavy traffic, street closures and partial lane closures as his motorcade moves through town.
The vice president’s office said additional details about the trip will be forthcoming; checkstatesman.com for updates.
EMBATTLED UT REGENT HALL ‘WILLING TO TESTIFY, BUT WANTS SUBPOENA’
AP’s Jim Vertuno reports:
University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall’s attorney has told state lawmakers that Hall is willing to answer questions at his next impeachment hearing, but wants to be subpoenaed to testify under oath.
Members of the House Select Transparency in State Agency Operations Committee said last week they want to hear from Hall, who has been accused of misusing his position to try to force out Austin campus President Bill Powers.
Hall attorney Allan Van Fleet sent a letter to committee attorney Rusty Hardin saying Hall is ready to testify and outlining the subpoena demand for the next hearings scheduled for Nov. 12-13.
“He is ready to tell his side of the story,” Van Fleet said Tuesday without elaborating.
A subpoena could give Hall some legal protection if he’s asked to divulge confidential information.
Hardin and committee co-chairs Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, and Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, did not immediately return telephones messages Tuesday.
Hall is part of a nine-member governing board that repeatedly has clashed with Powers over issues such as tuition and graduation rates, the roles of teaching and research, and other issues.
Powers is believed to have a slim majority of support on the board, and the power struggle has led prominent alumni to rally in his support. Last week, Powers was named chairman of the Association of American Universities.
The committee is investigating several allegations against Hall, including whether he withheld information on his application for appointment, abused open records laws with requests for more than 800,000 pages of documents and released private student or employee information.
The panel can also determine if Hall’s actions amounted to malfeasance or misuse of his office. If it recommends impeachment, the matter goes to the full House and Hall could ultimately be removed from office.The committee issued subpoenas to several witnesses last week, including two University of Texas administrators and former system general counsel Barry Burgdorf.
Burgdorf testified he believed Hall showed “a clear intent to get rid of Bill Powers.” Burgdorf also said he could not answer some questions from lawmakers without violating attorney-client privilege because of his previous work for the university system.
Van Fleet has said Hall raised important questions about political influence over university admissions, fundraising and the law school loan program, and denies Hall released any legally protected information to the public.
Van Fleet also has complained that he’s not allowed to cross-examine witnesses and has questioned whether Hall can get an impartial hearing.
MRT ON TV
Earlier tonight I joined Democratic consultant Matt Glazer to discus the Obamacare rollout and President Obama’s promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” on KTBC Fox Austin. Here’s the video.
Last night (Monday) MRT co-founder and Democratic consultant Jason Stanford and Central Texas Republican Assembly president James Dickey discussed the judicial ruling overturning the state’s abortion law. Here’s the video.
– The state’s “highest military decoration,” the “Texas Legislative Medal of Honor” was presented posthumously to WWII hero Audie Murhpy by Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday in Farmersville, TX.
– The SAEN reports (behind paywall) that toll lanes me be the solution to congestion on IH-35.
2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– Texas Weekly’s Jay Root reports on the fight before the fight between likely gubernatorial opponents Greg Abbott and State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth).
– A Human Events / Gravis poll of Texas Republican primary voters finds that a “generic” Tea Party candidate would beat incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) 46-33. The poll also tests former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), U.S. Reps. Steve Stockman (R-TX) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Rafael Cruz, the father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
– Gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R-TX) has an op ed in The McAllen Monitor detailing his “working plan for Texans.”
– TM’s Paul Burka weighs in on Abbott’s proposal.
– SAEN columnist Gilbert Garcia looks at (behind paywall) the political no-win facing U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego (D-TX) on the issue of health care.
Other stories of interest:
– It’s not everyday that the Secretary of State has an exclusive op ed in a Texas newspaper.
– U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) defended “Stand Your Ground” laws at a Senate committee hearingTuesday at which the mother of Trayvon Martin testified.
– An update on former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
– Bob Barker…come on down.
BLOGS (from the left)
BLOGS (from the right)