By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday upheld a Texas law that places restrictions on abortions, saying a provision requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was a reasonable regulation.
Those opposed to the law have said it is a veiled attempt to limit abortions by imposing costly and unnecessary regulations, adding that the law may be copied by other states trying to limit abortions within their borders.
A federal judge erred last year in blocking the law, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found. The U.S. Supreme Court later allowed it to go into effect.
"The district court's opinion took the wrong approach to the rational basis test," the 5th Circuit's decision said.
The law requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges, the ability to admit a patient for treatment at a hospital usually by being recognized as a doctor who can use hospital facilities, at an adequately equipped hospital within 30 miles of their practice.
Backers said the requirement protects the health of mothers while opponents argue it places an undue burden on women in rural parts of the state where medical facilities are sparse.
"Requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges would also promote the continuity of care in all cases, reducing the risk of injury caused by miscommunication and misdiagnosis when a patient is transferred from one health care provider to another," the court wrote.
But Planned Parenthood, which brought the suit, said abortion complications are rare and usually similar to those of a miscarriage, which often are treated by emergency room physicians.
Since the new law went into effect about five months ago, about a third of the abortion providers in Texas have closed, mostly because of the admitting privileges provision, leaving 19 clinics for the state's 26 million people.
Texas, seen as an incubator of conservative policies, has garnered a great deal of attention because its regulations have stood up to court challenges.
The court did allow abortion providers who have applied for admitting privileges within the state's designated time frame but have yet to receive a decision from hospitals to continue their practice.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
[Image: Keep Abortion Legal by American Life League, via Flickr Creative Commons]