Friday, August 29th, Judge Lee Yeakel jeopardized the health and safety of pregnant women in Texas. In response to a lawsuit filed by Texas abortion providers to nullify provisions of HB 2, Judge Yeakel struck down another part of HB 2: the requirement that abortion providers modify or rebuild their centers to meet ambulatory surgical center (ASC) standards.
Melissa Conway, spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, responded to the ruling:
Yeakel ruled that the ASC rule posed an “undue burden” on Texas women. He penned that the distance that women would need to drive to procure abortions due to HB 2 imposes an undue burden. The seven remaining abortion centers that have complied with HB 2 are located in five metropolitan hubs and would be up to 150 miles away from some parts of rural Texas—this is Yeakel’s made-up opinion of an undue burden.
In the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the concept of “undue burden” emerged as a contrivance when considering the constitutionality of Pro-Life laws. However, this concept has remained just that—an undefined and vague variable misapplied by activist judges as a political tool. Judge Yeakel’s ruling directly conflicts with a higher court’s ruling in which the U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals did not find a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortion.
Yeakel argued that the ASC standards coupled with the admitting privileges requirements of HB 2 are a “scheme” designed to close down most of the abortion mills in Texas:
However, when the two provisions are considered together, they create a scheme that effects the closing of almost all abortion clinics in Texas that were operating legally in the fall of 2013…The court will thus enjoin the enforcement of both provisions on the basis that they act together to create an undue burden on a woman seeking a previability abortion by restricting access to previously available legal facilities.
Yeakel’s decision today also granted permission to two abortion mills operated by the plaintiff, Whole Women’s Health, to re-open despite the fact that their abortionists have not secured hospital admitting privileges. This ruling exempts these two centers for complying with HB 2.
Through his rulings and reversals on Pro-Life laws, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel has amassed a record of and reputation for endangering the health of pregnant women and their unborn children. Today’s ruling on specific provisions of HB 2 was disappointing but not surprising.
Immediately following Friday’s decision, the Office of the Attorney General filed an appeal to Yeakel’s ruling with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans.