Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the Texas abortion law passed this summer goes beyond the Constitution, striking down key provisions of what opponents viewed as the most restrictive measures on abortion in the United States.
The federal judge blocked two key parts of the abortion law on Monday, calling one part unconstitutional and saying the other placed undue burden on some women. The ruling is seen by abortion providers and supports as a victory, and completes a challenge from abortion doctors who said their ability to provide services would have been severely limited under the law.
The law would have required that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic, which critics said would force many rural clinics to close down.
Yeakel wrote that this requirement “does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the State in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman’s health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her.”
The abortion law also would have required all abortions take place in surgical centers, effectively ending the practice of providing women with abortion drugs to take at home.
Yeakel said while these provisions “do not generally place an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion, they do if they ban a medication abortion where a physician determines, in appropriate medical judgment, such a procedure is necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”
The law elicited a bitter fight from Democrats before its passage in July. Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis, who is now running for governor, rose to fame thanks to her hours-long filibuster of the law.
The Texas abortion law would have taken effect on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot said the state plans to appeal the ruling from Judge Lee Yeakel immediately.