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Planned Parenthood Petitions 5th Circuit to Reconsider HB 2 Ruling


by: Natalie San Luis

Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 01:00 PM CDT


Planned Parenthood and other reproductive justice advocates filed a petition yesterday requesting that full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals examine the constitutionality of HB 2, the omnibus abortion legislation passed last summer.

Although federal Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that parts of the legislation presented an undue burden to Texas women seeking abortion care, a three-judge panel ruled to uphold HB 2 in late March.

In the petition, Planned Parenthood argues that HB 2 has and will continue to make safe, legal abortion access an impossibility for many Texas women.

"This hardship further impacts women who have already lost access to birth control and preventative health care at the hands of a small group of politicians who are trying to impose their beliefs on all Texans," Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes Action Fund, said in a statement.

Read below the jump for more information on the petition.

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As of March 27, the 5th Circuit upheld the provision in HB 2 that requires abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

Several clinics, especially those in rural areas or near religious hospitals, have closed due to difficulty obtaining these privileges.

Planned Parenthood released the following statement on the petition:

AUSTIN, TX - Today, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas filed a petition on behalf of their patients to request that the full bench of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals consider the constitutionality of harmful abortion restrictions that were struck down by  a federal district court last fall. On March 27, a three-judge panel of the court upheld the Texas law, making safe and legal abortion virtually impossible for thousands of Texas women to access. Similar laws have been blocked by federal courts in Alabama, Mississippi, and Wisconsin, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit last December affirmed a preliminary injunction against enforcement of Wisconsin's law.

In the petition filed today, Planned Parenthood argues that the three-judge panel's ruling warrants closer review by the full court because it conflicts with decades of applicable Supreme Court precedent and if allowed to stand would have terrible implications for women's health and rights.

Statement from Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director of Planned Parenthood Texas Votes Action Fund:

"The three-judge panel's ruling on March 27  failed the women of Texas, and severely limits a woman's access to safe and legal abortion in vast regions of the state. This hardship further impacts women who have already lost access to birth control and preventative health care at the hands of a small group of politicians who are trying to impose their beliefs on all Texans.

Planned Parenthood will continue providing services, including abortion, to women across the state and we will work to combat these laws in the state house and the court house. Texas women need leaders who will defend the ability to make decisions about their own reproductive health, and who will protect women's access to basic health care - including birth control."

The three-judge panel that ruled on March 27 includes a judge who is openly hostile to Roe v. Wade.  The Fifth Circuit has repeatedly upheld laws that impose medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion and take health care away from Texas women in need.  In a highly unusual move, last October, it abruptly stayed a lower court's permanent injunction issued after a three-day trial on the abortion restrictions.  In 2012, it allowed Texas to bar all Planned Parenthood health centers from participating in a preventive health care program. Earlier that year, it upheld an especially cruel and demeaning forced ultrasound law.

The March 27 ruling upholds a law requiring doctors who provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital - a requirement that leading medical associations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) oppose because it harms women's health and interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, was jointly filed on September 27 on behalf of more than a dozen Texas health care providers and their patients by Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Texas law firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.  In striking down the measure as unconstitutional after a three-day trial, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the admitting privileges requirement has "no rational relationship to improved patient care" and also "places an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion."  Despite that ruling, a panel of the Fifth Circuit allowed the law to take effect on November 1, 2013, while the case was on appeal and a different panel held it constitutional on March 27.



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