April 17, 2014 — A federal judge on Wednesday denied an El Paso, Texas, abortion clinic's request for a temporary injunction to block a state requirement that its abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, the Houston Chronicle reports (Fikac, Houston Chronicle, 4/16).
Earlier this month, the Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of several abortion clinics in the state, filed suit against another provision in the same law (HB 2) that requires abortion clinics to meet the building standards for ambulatory surgical centers. At the same time, CRR also filed a narrower challenge to the law's admitting privileges requirement on behalf of two clinics: Whole Woman's Health in McAllen, and El Paso-based Reproductive Health Services.
CRR filed the lawsuits less than one week after a federal appeals court upheld the admitting privileges requirement and another provision that requires a physician to be present when administering medication abortion drugs (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/3).
Stephanie Toti, a senior staff attorney at CRR, said the admitting privileges requirement would force women in the El Paso region to obtain abortion care in New Mexico, where abortion providers are not required to have admitting privileges. "It's the very definition of arbitrary," she said, adding that many women in the El Paso region have limited access to transportation.
Meanwhile, state attorney Jimmy Blacklock noted that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already heard and rejected CRR's arguments when it ruled in favor of the state in a separate lawsuit that also challenged the admitting privileges requirement. "We've got the same parties, the same lawyers and the 5th Circuit has just ruled and we're all bound to follow that decision," he said (Qiao Chen, Texas Tribune, 4/16).
U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel on Wednesday stated that for the plaintiffs to receive a temporary injunction, they would have to at least demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success in their overarching lawsuit against the provision. He said such success was unlikely, given that the 5th Circuit had just ruled to uphold the requirements (Houston Chronicle, 4/16).
Yeakel said, "We can slice it and dice it any way we want and talk about exceptions and differences," but the plaintiffs' evidence did not satisfy the "full elements necessary" for a temporary injunction.
After the ruling, CRR dropped its request for another temporary injunction for the Whole Woman's Health Clinic. However, the coalition of abortion providers said they would continue in their challenges to the admitting privileges requirement and the ambulatory surgical center requirements.
Toti said, "We're disappointed that the judge denied our request for temporary relief," adding, "But we're still hopeful that ultimately justice will prevail in this case and that safe, high-quality abortion services will continue to be available for women in Texas" (Texas Tribune, 4/16).
According to the Chronicle, attorneys for both the state and CRR plan to meet this week at Yeakel's direction to organize a schedule for the lawsuit. Yeakel, who said in his ruling that he expects the case to ultimately reach the Supreme Court, urged both sides to try to resolve the case expeditiously (Houston Chronicle, 4/16).