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Texas abortion facilities begin reopening after judge strikes down improved health regs

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An abortion clinic will reopen this weekend in Texas after a judge ruled that the state's requirement that abortion facilities meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers imposed an undue burden on pregnant women.

On Friday, Judge Lee Yeakel declared that HB2’s ambulatory surgical center requirements were unconstitutional, and were designed to close clinics rather than increase health standards.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that the state could enforce the law while the lower court considered its constitutionality.

Within days of Yeakel’s ruling, administrators of an abortion clinic in McAllen, Texas said it would open this weekend, and another "will most likely re-open" in El Paso, according to Texas Right to Life (TRTL) spokesperson Melissa Conway.

HB2, which was signed more than a year ago and also required abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of clinics at which they worked, was expected to bring the number of abortion clinics in Texas from more than 40 to fewer than 10 by this fall. The ambulatory center requirements were to take effect on September 1.

State Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which said it would make a decision after a hearing September 12.

"Ultimately, we feel confident that HB2 will be upheld on merit and that the women of Texas will no longer be subjected to substandard forms of healthcare at the hands of big business abortionists seeking big financial gains," said Conway.

Both the McAllen and El Paso facilities are owned by the plaintiff in the case, Whole Women's Health, said Conway. In a press release on Friday after Yeakel's decision, the pro-life group said that both the McAllen and El Paso locations "have not secured hospital admitting privileges. This ruling exempts these two centers [from] complying with HB 2."

Operation Rescue was likewise critical of Women's Health for moving to open the clinics. In a statement, President Troy Newman said, "Whole Women’s Health is putting the cart before the horse and profits before the lives and health of women by scheduling abortion appointments in McAllen.”

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“They have no idea how an appeals court will rule at" the Fifth Circuit's hearing, continued Newman. "It is premature to schedule abortions when it has already been determined that its McAllen facility cannot meet basic health and safety standards. This reckless move shows how much Whole Women’s Health is all about profit and not about the safety of patients.”

Conway told LifeSiteNews that even if Yeakel's ruling is overturned, claims by abortion supporters that women would be underserved in Texas are false. "Across the state, there are resources and services provided to the women of Texas through local pregnancy centers. In addition to free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, these community-based centers provide resources of education, material assistance, counseling, and social services. Many pregnancy resource centers are limited medical or full medical and all provide a support structure to not only address both needs of the mother, but also that of her child too."

"There are two such centers in McAllen alone, and more than 70 across the state of Texas," said Conway. "There is no 'need' too large to warrant an abortion. To ensure a successful life for both mother and baby -- during and after pregnancy -- there are many resources available for women facing challenging circumstances."

Conway also noted that the number of pregnancy care clinics has always been much larger than the number of abortion facilities in the state, even before HB2 was passed into law.

Neither Emily's List nor Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas immediately returned LifeSiteNews' phone calls requesting comment on the reopening of the McAllen center. Women's Health has also opened a facility in New Mexico, which will aim to do abortions for women from Texas.

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