National women's rights groups and Texas abortion clinics filed suit Friday in federal court in Texas, seeking to block provisions of a new state law that they said would have "dramatic and draconian effects" on women's access to the procedure.
The suit targets two provisions of a sweeping antiabortion law that Texas adopted in July. The rules are scheduled to take effect Oct. 29.
The first is a requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Many medical experts say that the rule, which was passed in the name of safety, is medically unnecessary and that the requirement cannot be met by clinics in smaller communities.
In a telephone news conference Friday, Texas clinic owners said the rule may force one-third of the state's 36 abortion clinics to shut down, leaving large areas of the state without ready access.
The second requires the use in so-called medication abortions of what many doctors called an outdated, less effective and more dangerous drug protocol. Under guidelines based on research studies, the two-drug combination is widely used through the ninth week of pregnancy and accounts for about one in five abortions nationwide.
Under the Texas law, clinics would have to follow, instead, a regime described in the original Food and Drug Administration approval in 2000. It required doses three times those of the current protocol and an extra visit to the clinic and was recommended only through seven weeks of pregnancy.
"Politicians are interfering with the personal medical decisions of women who already have the least access to birth control and preventive health care," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he hopes to make abortion "a thing of the past," signed the legislation in July after calling a special session of the Legislature to pass it. The bill came under a national spotlight when Wendy Davis, a Democratic state senator, temporarily derailed passage in the Republican-controlled Legislature with a filibuster.
In a written comment on the lawsuit Friday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst attacked abortion rights groups for pursuing "an agenda that disregards the value of human life and accepts subpar medical care for women undergoing a serious surgical procedure."
The suit, Planned Parenthood vs. Abbott, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, in Austin. The goal is to obtain a preliminary injunction to prevent the two measures from taking effect.