AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld Texas' tough new abortion restrictions that shuttered many of the abortions clinics in the state.
A panel of judges at the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and served no medical purpose. In its opinion, the appeals court said the law "on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman."
Texas lawmakers last year passed some of the toughest restrictions in the U.S. on when, where and how women may obtain an abortion. The Republican-controlled Legislature required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and placed strict limits on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing pills.
Most Republican leaders in Texas oppose abortion, except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. In passing the new rules, they argued they were protecting the health of the woman.
But abortion-rights supporters called the measures an attempt to stop abortions in Texas through overregulation. Many abortion doctors do not have admitting privileges and limiting when and where they may prescribe abortion-inducing pills discourages women from choosing that option, they say.
Other aspects of the new abortion laws, including a requirement that all procedures take place in a surgical facility, do not take effect until September.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in October that the provisions place an unconstitutional burden on women's access to abortion.
Three days after Yeakel's ruling, the 5th Circuit allowed Texas to enforce the law while the state appealed the decision. At least a dozen Texas abortion clinics closed after the law took effect.