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Update: 5th Circuit Denies Emergency Appeal, Texas Abortion Clinics Remain Open

Ryan E. Poppe
TPR News

Update (9/3): A panel of judges at the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request to block a federal judges ruling striking down Texas’ ambulatory surgical center requirement for clinics performing abortions.   

On Friday, Federal District Judge Lee Yeakel issued a ruling that stopped the enforcement of House Bill 2's ambulatory surgical center requirements and also blocked the law’s admitting privileges requirement for clinics in McAllen and El Paso.

Rather than granting Abbott's request for an emergency stay, which the 5th Circuit did during the previous legal challenge to the abortion clinic restriction law, judges set a scheduling order to hear oral arguments on why the state requires an emergency stay.

Both sides will present in the matter on Friday, Sept. 12, in New Orleans.

"We think there is no harm to the state by maintaining the status quo and allowing these clinics to remain open while the appeal is resolved in the court," said Esha Bhandari, general counsel with the Center for Reproductive Rights, the plaintiffs in the case. " So we’re very encouraged that the 5th Circuit will hold the hearing, will allow us to present our arguments and explain why there’s going to be an immediate harm to women in Texas if the district court’s injunction is stayed.” 

Bhandari said for now all of the clinics that were scheduled to shut down will now be able to provide abortion services. The clinic in McAllen re-opened immediately following the judge’s ruling.  

Original post (Sept. 2): In his appeal to the US 5th Circuit Court, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also requested the court provide an emergency decision that would allow the state to enforce it’s ambulatory surgical center requirement for clinics performing abortions.

A federal judge ruled against the House Bill 2 requirement in a decision late Friday, Aug. 29.

Whole Woman’s Health is re-opening a clinic in South Texas following the judge’s decision. The group feared having to shut down because of the new standards for clinics performing abortions that were set to take effect this week.

"We demonstrated that the burden is so great that we’re allowed to open our facility there in McAllen that we’ve had open for 11 years," said Whole Woman's Health Executive Director Amy Hagstrom Miller. "It’s a little easier for us to re-open McAllen partly because I own the building and I left it licensed and fully furnished.”

Hagstrom Miller said they should be able to begin serving the community by the end of this week.

Kyleen Wright with the Texans for Life Coalition argued that having to drive long distances is common in Texas for other fields of medicine and it doesn’t result in lawsuits.

"Lots of people with cancer travel all over to go from every region of the state to go to MD Anderson and for people who live in outer areas, in rural-areas of the state it’s just a given you’re going to travel,” Wright said.

Abbott has asked the 5th Circuit to render a decision by Friday and he’s hoping it allows the state to enforce the law requiring all clinics performing abortion become ambulatory surgical centers.