An embattled abortion clinic in McAllen, Tex., which was the last provider of abortions in the vast Rio Grande Valley when new state restrictions forced it to stop last fall, will start operating again by this weekend, its owner said Wednesday, after last week’s favorable decision by a federal judge.
But whether the clinic, a branch of Whole Woman’s Health, and at least a dozen others in the state can remain open for long will be determined by a federal appeals court, which has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 12 in New Orleans.
Responding to an emergency request from Texas officials, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will decide whether a district court overstepped last week when it blocked key parts of the sweeping abortion law adopted by Texas last year.
Last Friday, Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court in Austin, Tex., ruled that requiring abortion clinics to meet the costly building and staffing standards of ambulatory surgery centers, as the 2013 law required, would place unconstitutional obstacles to women’s access to abortion. The requirement, which many medical experts said was unnecessary for patient safety, was supposed to take effect on Sept. 1, and it would have forced about 12 of the state’s remaining 19 abortion clinics to close.
In Friday’s decision, Judge Yeakel also partly rolled back a rule already in effect, a requirement that abortion clinic doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals. That requirement, also described by medical experts as irrelevant to patient safety, has caused more than 20 clinics across Texas to close.
Judge Yeakel said the admitting-privilege rule should definitely not be applied to clinics in McAllen and El Paso. The evidence was clear, he wrote, that the rule had left women in South and West Texas with little practical access to abortions.