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Originally published Friday, September 27, 2013 at 7:22 PM

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Lawsuit filed to block Texas abortion law

The lawsuit seeks to strike down new requirements that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that all abortions must take place in surgical centers, rather than allowing women to take abortion medication at home

The Washington Post

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More than a dozen abortion providers filed a federal lawsuit Friday in Texas challenging parts of the state’s anti-abortion law, which limits access to surgical and medication abortions in the state.

The lawsuit seeks to strike down new requirements that doctors who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where the procedure is performed and that all abortions must take place in surgical centers, rather than allowing women to take abortion medication at home. The plaintiffs argue that the restrictions impose an unconstitutional burden on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

The lawsuit says the requirements, due to take effect Oct. 29, would end abortion services in more than one-third of the state’s licensed facilities and would eliminate services altogether in Fort Worth and five other cities: Harlingen, Killeen, Lubbock, McAllen and Waco.

Noting that “at least 1 in 12 women will have to travel more than 100 miles to obtain abortion care” if the law goes into effect, the lawsuit adds: “These requirements, individually and taken together, violate the constitutional rights guaranteed to both Plaintiffs and their patients by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The challenge was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Texas, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Texas-based law firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.

The suit 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.

The lawsuit does not challenge another provision in the law banning abortions after 20 weeks, which has broader public support than other restrictions. That restriction is under litigation in federal court in Arizona and state court in Georgia.

“We are challenging the things that have the most drastic effect, the quickest,” Jennifer Dalven, who directs the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said in an interview, adding that the admitting-privileges requirement alone could close one-third of Texas’ 36 abortion clinics.

Elizabeth Graham, executive director of Texas Right to Life, said: “The abortion industry is signaling some major losses” by not challenging the 20-week ban.

The fight over Texas’ abortion law garnered widespread attention this summer, when state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat, waged a lengthy filibuster that temporarily blocked the bill’s passage. She failed from keeping the proposal from becoming law, but that fight is laying the groundwork for a gubernatorial bid in Texas, which she said she plans to formally launch Oct. 3.

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