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Federal Judge Expects Texas Abortion Lawsuit to Reach Supreme Court

Spencer Selvidge for KUT News
A lawsuit challenging a requirement that Texas abortion doctors receive admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is moving forward, but only as it applies to certain doctors in El Paso and McAllen.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Austin turned down a request to temporarily block a requirement of Texas' controversial new abortion law for clinics in El Paso and McAllen. But the judge is allowing the lawsuit to move forward – and predicts it will ultimately travel all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakelsays with only two federal judges in the Western District of Texas Court in Austin, time is too tight to consider a temporary block on the requirement in question: that doctors have patient admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics in El Paso and McAllen. Judge Yeakel said based on a separate ruling by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld hospital admitting privileges generally, the temporary block would not likely be approved by that higher court.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which include Whole Woman's Health and Reproductive Services, are also asking for a permanent block on another requirement in the state's new rules: that clinics upgrade to ambulatory surgical center standards by Sept. 1, 2014.

Yeakel said he (or a visiting judge) will only be able to consider a case that looks at both parts together, rather than spend time shuffling between Austin and the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The aim is for the case to get heard before the end of August.

Yeakel said the challenge to the hospital admitting privileges requirement will most likely end up before justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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