Health clinics offering abortions in Texas filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday to block a new state rule that could shut down more than half of the state’s remaining providers this fall, forcing women seeking an abortion in southern and western Texas to drive several hundred miles each way or go out of state. The rule, part of a sweeping anti-abortion law passed last year, requires that all clinics providing abortions at any stage of pregnancy, including nonsurgical drug-induced abortions, meet the costly building standards of ambulatory surgery centers.
Only six of the state’s 24 abortion clinics now meet that standard, which will take effect Sept. 1.
Proponents of the Texas law, including Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, say the surgery center requirement will enhance patient safety. But the clinics, backed by major medical associations, say it is unnecessary and singles out abortion clinics for costly regulation when other, riskier outpatient procedures do not have to meet the same standard.
The new suit comes less than a week after a federal appeals court refused to overturn another provision of the 2013 law that has already forced several clinics to close, leaving the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas without abortion services. That provision required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in nearby local hospitals, a rule that has proved impossible to meet in several smaller cities where clinics use visiting doctors. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, held that the requirement did not pose an undue burden on access to abortion since many other clinics continued to function.
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