A federal judge struck down a key provision in a Texas law cracking down on reproductive health clinics, the Houston Chronicle reported on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said in his decision that House Bill 2's requirement that health facilities providing abortions meet state guidelines for hospital surgical centers is unconstitutional because of the effect it would have on access to such services. The provision, which was scheduled to take effect on Monday, would have forced all but seven clinics in the state to close.
"It imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas," Yeakel wrote in his decision.
The Austin Statesman reported that half of the state's abortion clinics have already had to close in accordance with the law, due to another provision requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their facilities. Many hospitals refused to grant such privileges.
Yeakel struck that provision down in a ruling last October, only to be overruled by the federal Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Supreme Court refused to block that provision a month later.
The New York Times reported that state Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott's office has already indicated it will pursue a similar appeal after this latest decision.
"The state disagrees with the court's ruling and will seek immediate relief from the Fifth Circuit, which has already upheld H.B. 2 once," said Lauren Bean, a spokesperson for Abbott.
Meanwhile, Whole Woman's Health chief executive Amy Hagstrom Miller -- whose organization operates reproductive health clinics in the state -- praised Yeakel's ruling in a statement.
"As he clearly states in his decision, requiring every abortion clinic to turn into a surgical center is excessive and not based on good medicine," Hagstrom Miller's statement read. "It's an undue burden for women in Texas—and thankfully today the court agreed. The evidence has been stacking up against the state and against the politicians who so cynically passed these laws in the name of safety."
Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed the bill into law in July 2013, despite criticisms that it was "draconian" in nature.
The debate over HB2 also served as the springboard for Abbott's opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who filibustered it for 11 hours a month earlier, leading up to demonstrators delaying its passage by shouting down legislators from the gallery of the state Capitol.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]