Reaction Swift as Texas Omnibus Antiabortion-Rights Bill Signed into Law

July 19, 2013 — Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Thursday signed into law (HB 2) an omnibus antiabortion-rights measure that will give the state "some of the toughest restrictions on abortion in the country," the New York Times reports (Fernandez, New York Times, 7/18).

As he signed the legislation, Perry said, "This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women" (Blake, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 7/18). He called the bill "reasonable" and "common sense" (Luthra, Texas Tribune, 7/18).

The law includes four abortion regulations that failed to progress in either chamber of the Legislature during the regular session: a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless a woman's life is in danger, a requirement that abortions be performed at an ambulatory surgical center, a mandate that physicians administer medication abortion drugs in person and a requirement that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

The state Senate approved the bill during a second special session convened after state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) successfully filibustered the measure during the first special session (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/17).

According to the Times, the bill's 20-week abortion ban and admitting-privileges restriction will take effect 90 days after the legislative session ends later this month, but abortion clinics will have until Sept. 2014 to comply with the ambulatory surgical center standards.

Concern Over Clinic Closures

Opponents of the law have said it would force most of the state's 42 abortion clinics to close because they would be unable to comply with new licensing requirements or obtain admitting privileges. Clinics would have to relocate or undergo costly renovations to become ambulatory surgical centers.

Supporters of the requirements have argued they are about ensuring women's safety. However, physicians groups have said the provisions are not medically necessary.

Lawsuits Expected

"The fight over this law will move to the courts, while the bigger fight for women's access to health care in Texas gains steam," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She added, "People are enraged by this law, and it has created a whole new generation of activists who are in it for the long run to elect leaders who will protect women's health" (New York Times, 7/18).

Other groups -- including the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas -- also are considering filing lawsuits against the legislation (Texas Tribune, 7/18). According to the Times, the lawsuits likely would be filed before any of the law's provisions take effect (New York Times, 7/18).

Meanwhile, Tony Perkins -- head of the Christian conservative Family Research Council -- said in a statement, "We applaud the brave state leaders -- including Governor Perry -- who refuse to back down from defending human dignity, even in the face of intense pressure and harassment" ("Post Politics," Washington Post, 7/18).