By Cheryl Sullenger
Austin, TX — In a huge victory last week, a 3-member panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that nearly all provisions of a sweeping 2013 Texas abortion clinic safety law are Constitutional and may go into effect on July 1, 2015.
This 56-page ruling lifted an injunction that prevented enforcement of certain requirements, including facility standards and a provision that required abortionists to maintain hospital privileges within 30 miles of their abortion facility.
Once the law takes effect, it is expected to close 9 out of 17 remaining abortion facilities in Texas. Before the passage of the controversial abortion law, there were 41 abortion clinics in the Lone Star State.
In an unusual move, the Court carved out an exemption for the Whole Women’s Health abortion clinic in McAllen, Texas, reasoning that the closure of the last abortion facility in the Rio Grande Valley would pose an “undue burden” on women, who would then have to travel about 230 miles to the next nearest clinic in San Antonio.
“Many people have to travel over three hours to get legitimate, life-saving medical care, such as certain kinds of surgeries or treatment for diseases that require specialists. No one is concerned about an undue burden on those people. However, when it comes to abortion, it looks like the Court would rather keep a substandard abortion clinic open that endangers women rather than no abortion clinic at all. This poses a serious health risk to women,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “This gerrymandering of the Constitution is problematic and should be challenged by the State of Texas. The law should apply equally to all.”
However, Fatimah Gifford, a spokeswoman for Whole Woman’s Health, told reporters that she is not sure the McAllen facility will be able to continue operations.
Last week’s ruling only allows the McAllen clinic to operate only until another facility opens that meets all the safety requirements of the law. The Court also issued a unique exemption for abortionist Sherwood Lynn, one of four Whole Women’s Health’s McAllen abortionists, who is alone allowed to continue operating there without hospital privileges.
“We will just have to wait and see who is left after July 1,” said Newman. “Right now the situation is in flux, but any abortion clinic closures will save lives and protect women from unscrupulous and dangerous abortion mills, and for that we are very grateful.”
A study published in July, 2014, revealed that after portions of HB2 went into effect in 2013, abortions dropped an impressive 13% the following year.
“When abortion clinics close, lives are saved,” said Newman. “Some want to deny that fact, but the numbers don’t lie.”
Operation Rescue contributed to the passage of HB2 after reporting extensively on abortion abuses perpetrated by Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell and Texas abortionist Douglas Karpen. Operation Rescue obtained information from several former employees of Karpen, including photos taken by them of late-term aborted babies that had large gashes in their throats, raising concerns that those babies had been born alive and intentionally murdered in a similar way that Gosnell dispatched his victims. Gosnell was convicted of three counts of First Degree Murder for “snipping” the spinal cords of babies born alive during shoddy abortions. He is serving life in prison.
Operation Rescue’s reporting caught the eye of Gov. Rick Perry, who called two special sessions of the legislature in order to pass HB2.
Whole Women’s Heath, which sued in 2013 to block enforcement of HB2, is seeking to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. There has been no word yet on whether the nation’s highest court will hear the case.