Judge rules Texas abortion restrictions unconstitutional

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Anti-abortion and pro-choice demonstrators argue in front of the Supreme Court during the March for Life January 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. The annual march marks the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the court that made abortion legal in the United States.

New abortion restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature are unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Monday in a divisive case the state has already vowed to appeal.

In an opinion issued Monday, District Judge Lee Yeakel said the state's effort to regulate abortions violated the rights of doctors who perform the procedure to do what they determine is best for their patients, and would unreasonably restrict women from accessing abortion clinics.

According to The Washington Post:

"Roughly a dozen abortion providers filed a federal lawsuit last month saying that the requirements, which were due to take effect Oct. 29, would end abortion services in more than a third of the state's licensed facilities and would eliminate services altogether in Fort Worth and five other major cities. Texas attorney general Greg Abbott had argued the new restrictions, adopted this summer, were aimed at providing better medical protections for both women and their fetuses.

"The provision requiring doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges '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,' Yeakel wrote."

The newspaper describes Monday's ruling as "a legal victory for abortion rights providers," but NPR's Wade Goodwyn says "the state is not happy" about the ruling and "is already vowing an emergency appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals."

Goodwyn says that the 5th Circuit is "one of the most conservative courts in the country," and if it overturns Judge Yeakel's ruling "it's very likely that Planned Parenthood and their allies would appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court."

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