It wasn't a surprise, but it's still a disappointment that the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits in New Orleans, upheld the onerous new Texas abortion law and overruled the smart opinion of U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who had seen fit to overturn aspects of it. The law requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they work.
But some doctors who don't have privileges would have to go through a lengthy process to get them, and don't need them to perform abortions. (Yeakel noted in his opinion that whether a doctor had admitting privileges had no effect on treatment that his or her patient received in a hospital later.)
At least a dozen abortion clinics have closed because their doctors can't meet the new requirements, forcing women in the poorer Rio Grande Valley area — where the only two abortion clinics have closed -- to travel 150 miles to the nearest provider in Corpus Christi.
I say it wasn't a surprise because when lawyers opposing the Texas law noted the situation of women in the Rio Grande Valley and argued that that was an undue burden, one of the appeals court judges — Edith Jones — questioned whether that was such a hardship since she calculated that the trip wouldn't take that long on the highway.
So you could see where the judge might be headed. It's another reminder that if you're an affluent woman (like a judge) with the time and means to drive wherever you need, perhaps 150 miles is not a big deal. The women these restrictions hurt the most are lower-income women with limited options, juggling families, lower-paying jobs they can't take time off from and difficulty accessing transportation.
But more importantly, the Texas law and others like it are simply attempts to chip away at a woman's constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion. And it's unfortunate that the appellate court judges didn't see that. There is no valid medical reason for a doctor performing abortions to have hospital privileges. In fact, in California, trained medical professionals who are not even doctors are now being allowed to perform simple first-trimester abortions.
Next stop for the fight against this Texas law could be the U.S. Supreme Court.