AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld Texas' tough abortion restrictions that have forced the closure of nearly 20 clinics across the state, saying the new rules don't jeopardize women's health.
A panel of judges at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and served no medical purpose. After the lower court's ruling, the appeals court allowed the restrictions to go into effect while it considered the case, which ultimately could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The new law requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and places strict limits on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing pills. More regulations that are to begin later this year weren't a part of the case.
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."
Planned Parenthood, which sued to block the restrictions, called the ruling "terrible" and said that "safe and legal abortion will continue to be virtually impossible for thousands of Texas women to access."
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Perry signed last summer some of the toughest restrictions in the U.S. on when, where and how women may obtain an abortion.
At least 19 clinics have shut since the new law was approved and the 5th Circuit allowed the provisions on hospital-admitting privileges and abortion-inducing pills to take effect, leaving about 24 still open to serve a population of 26 million Texans. More closures could happen after the additional restrictions are in place.