AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Nearly three-quarters of Texas' abortion facilities would be forced to close by the end of this month if one of the nation's toughest new anti-abortion measures is allowed to take effect, attorneys for clinics challenging the law told a federal judge Monday.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel in Austin will rule on the latest challenge to the sweeping abortion restrictions that Texas' Republican-led Legislature passed last year. Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who is the favorite to become governor next year, is defending the restrictions.
The trial began as a federal judge in Alabama on Monday blocked a law in that state requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have hospital admitting privileges.
There are currently 18 abortion clinics operating in Texas. All of them would close if Yeakel upholds a law set to take effect Sept. 1 that would require the clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.
That would leave just seven places for women to legally terminate a pregnancy in Texas — all surgical centers in major cities, including four operated by Planned Parenthood.
Women living near the Mexico border would be most affected, as many would face a four-hour drive to get to the closest U.S. abortion provider.
Attorneys for the state contend that the distance doesn't pose an undue burden, saying women in El Paso could quickly reach an abortion provider by driving across state lines.
"We all know they can go 10-15 minutes down the street into New Mexico," said Jimmy Blacklock, a deputy attorney general.
A U.S. appeals court last week took a dim view of that argument over a Mississippi law that would close that state's only abortion clinic. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Mississippi may not shift its obligation for established constitutional rights of its citizens — in this case, getting an abortion — to another state.
Conservative states have passed tougher requirements for clinics in recent years that have limited women's access to abortions, saying the efforts are designed to protect women. Opponents call the laws thinly veiled attempts to effectively eliminate a right guaranteed since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
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