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Judge strikes down Texas abortion rules

A federal judge ruled on Monday that Texas’ strict anti-abortion law is unconstitutional and will not be implemented.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

A federal judge ruled on Monday that Texas’ strict anti-abortion law is unconstitutional and will not be implemented.

A federal judge ruled on Monday that parts of Texas’ strict anti-abortion law were unconstitutional.

The question before the court was whether Texas' new abortion laws--requiring that abortion providers get admitting privileges to hospitals, imposing a less safe and outdated regimen for the administering of the abortion pill--constituted an undue burden on women seeking abortion. (A third provision in the omnibus abortion bill, the 20-week ban, has not been challenged for fear it would force an unfavorable Supreme Court decision.) The provisions were set to go into effect on Tuesday.

District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the "admitting-privileges provision is without a rational basis," and thus unconstitutional, but the judge had an ambiguous ruling on the medication abortion provision, saying it is constitutional "except when a physician finds such an abortion necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother."

Yeakel, appointed by George W. Bush, wrote in the decision that abortion "is the most divisive issue to face this country since slavery," but added, "No ruling of this court will sway the opinion regarding abortion held by anyone. And, indeed, that is not the role of this court."

The medication abortion provision, which ties doctors to the outdated FDA labeling--meaning more side effects, and potentially making doctors reluctant to offer the pill option to patients at all--is similar to a law in Oklahoma, the constitutionality of which the Supreme Court may hear this term.

The case is likely to have an impact on the forthcoming Texas governor's race: the declared Democratic candidate, Wendy Davis, made her name nationally by standing against it, and her expected Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, happens to be the attorney general defending the law in court.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry responded to the ruling in a statement, saying, "Today's decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren't exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently. We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans." 

The law went to court in September after Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU of Texas filed suit against parts of the legislation.

David Taintor also contributed to this report.