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Judge In Second Abortion Trial Focusing On Undue Burden

Ryan Poppe
TPR News
Protesters were a regular site in the state capitol in Austin in July 2013, when Texas lawmakers ultimately passed new restrictions for clinics that perform abortions.

The second lawsuit challenging the ambulatory-surgical center requirement of Texas’ Abortion Law has wrapped up.

Austin Federal District Judge Lee Yeakel emphasized what was the definition of undue burden during closing arguments. Yeakel focused on what constitutes as an undue burden as it pertains to a lawsuit. 

Yeakel stressed that in no other situation would the State of Texas pass a similar requirement for anyone being treated for minor medical procedures such as a sprained ankle.

“The judges’ comments were thoughtful and it was clear that he understood the issue," said Center for Reproductive Rights senior staff attorney Stephanie Toti, who represents the clinics in the case. "There’s no reason to single out abortion from all other kinds of medical care for the imposition of special burden.”

But those who helped pass the law, like state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, contend the law hasn’t hurt clinics.

“A number of abortion providers are planning to open up ambulatory surgical centers, but maybe in not areas where they say there is a lack of access," Hughes said. "So we know that abortion providers are able to meet the standards because they’re building new ones.”

From the bench, Yeakel said he would use the current precedent to decide what constitutes an undue burden. That current precedent is tied to the recent U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding the law’s hospital admitting privilege requirement.

In that case, a panel of judges ruled the admitting privilege was not an undue burden because 80% of the women in Texas could still travel to their nearest clinic to get an abortion.