Pro Choice groups in Texas say they will ask U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel as early as today to issue a temporary order blocking key elements of the state's new abortion law from taking effect on October 29th as scheduled, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"The federal judge to whom this case has been assigned needs to issue an order that the law cannot go into effect that day," said Jeff George, who is the lead attorney for some thirty separate groups which are suing to block the law. "If he doesn't not issue that order, the law will take effect as scheduled."
Planned Parenthood and other groups are suing to block two key parts of the law. Their lawsuit, filed on Friday, seeks to throw out a new requirement that mandates all abortion clinics meet the strict standards required of ambulatory surgical centers, and it is seeking to block a requirement that all abortion clinics be staffed by doctors who have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.
The groups say abortion is essentially an outpatient procedure, and there are no medical indications that such strict rules are needed to protect patients.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the new law, which bans abortions after 20 weeks gestation, is not being challenged on the grounds that only a small fraction of all abortions are performed at such a late stage in the pregnancy process. By twenty weeks most women have missed several periods and have significant medical signs indicating that they are pregnant.
"The problem with getting this heard is that we have two federal court judges in Travis County with very full dockets," George said. "If I can't get a hearing, I can't get the injunction."
If Yeakel does in fact issue an injunction blocking the law from taking effect, the order is expected to be appealed to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is not friendly to abortion rights. It was the fifth court which upheld the 'sonogram law, which was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011, requiring all women to undergo a sonogram and have a doctor explain the sonogram to her before having an abortion.
Yeakel was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush in 2003 after being nominated for that post by Republican Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison.