Court Reversal Paves the Way For New Texas Abortion Law

Though new laws on abortion appear to be on course to take effect in Texas after opponents failed to win their case in a federal appeals court.

A ruling in a federal appeals court on October 31, reinstated most of the state’s controversial abortion restrictions, just three days after a federal judge ruled them unconstitutional.

The panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled the law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital can proceed while a lawsuit challenging the restrictions moves forward.

In its 20-page ruling, the panel acknowledged that the provision “may increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider and decrease the number of physicians available to perform abortions.”

The New York Times reported abortion clinic owners and some women’s rights organizations said the decision would have a serious effect because as many as 13 of the 36 clinics providing abortions in the state would have to stop doing so immediately.

The contentious law that the state legislature passed this summer also bans abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and, beginning in October 2014, will require doctors to perform all abortions in surgical facilities.

Texas has a raft of tough criminal sanctions for those accused of carrying out unlawful abortions.

The penalty for an unlawful abortion of a viable fetus is imprisonment ranging from five years to life. Facilities that perform abortions without a license face daily fines of $100 to $500. Failure to report an abortion is a Class A misdemeanor.

The Texas Tribune reported on how between 2008 and 2013, the Texas Medical Board, which regulates the state’s physicians, “took action against just three doctors who performed abortions — all of them for administrative infractions that did not involve criminal practices or late-term abortions.”

The stricter new laws may see the increasing criminalization of abortion in Texas. This is a controversial and fast-moving area of the law which may well be occupying more time in criminal courts in the future.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.