A three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on June 9, 2015, to uphold the constitutionality of Texas’ pro-life law, House Bill 2, as applied almost entirely across the Lone Star State. InWhole Woman’s Health v. Lakey, three abortion providers and three abortion doctors challenged the 2013 bill passed overwhelmingly by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Rick Perry.
The Court said abortion clinics failed to prove that the restrictions would unduly burden a "large fraction" of Texas women. Of the three legal challenges to House Bill 2, the Court upheld one across the state and two everywhere, except in McAllen.
The court upheld the requirement that drug-induced abortions be performed according to FDA regulations in the presence of a physician. Second, the court upheld the requirement that abortion facilities meet the same safety standards as the state’s more than 450 ambulatory surgical centers. Finally, the court upheld the rule requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
However, the Court created an exception to the second and third requirements for the Whole Woman’s Health abortion facility in McAllen. The exception for McAllen is related to the distance women in the Rio Grande Valley would have to travel for an abortion, if this facility closed. The nearest abortion provider is located in San Antonio, approximately 235 miles away. The Court deemed this distance placed “ a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion."
Of the 19 abortion facilities operating in Texas at the time of the Court’s ruling, only seven meet the safety standards of House Bill 2. They are located in Austin, Dallas (2), Fort Worth, Houston (2), and San Antonio. Abortion providers plan to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is unlikely to take the case. The High Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of comprehensive health and safety standards for abortion facilities.