A three-judge panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 31 granted the state an emergency stay, allowing a certain contested portion of the Texas abortion law to remain in effect for the time being.
The action stems from a case brought by Planned Parenthood Greater Texas Surgical Health Services and more than a dozen other plaintiff entities and individuals who filed suit to stop the state from enforcing two new portions in the abortion law, Chapter 171 of the state Health and Safety Code. The portions were added as amendments to the law by the Texas Legislature last July in a second special session.
Three days earlier, Judge Lee Yeakel, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Austin Division, on Oct. 28, had declared the two portions unconstitutional and granted plaintiffs an injunction on their motion to prevent the state from enforcing them.
One contested portion requires that a physician performing or inducing an abortion have admitting privileges on the date of the procedure at a hospital no more than 30 miles from the location at which the procedure is performed. The New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit reversed Judge Yeakel’s injunction preventing enforcement of that portion.
The other contested portion limits the use of abortion-inducing drugs to a protocol authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with limited exceptions, and in effect prohibits a medical abortion determined necessary by a physician for the preservation of the life or health of the mother at or after 20 weeks of gestation. The Fifth Circuit sustained the lower court’s injunction preventing the state from enforcing that provision.
Defendants in the case are Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner David Lakey and Texas Medical Board Executive Director Mari Robinson.
The case remains active. The Fifth Circuit scheduled oral arguments to be heard by a merits panel of the court in January.
GRANT MORATORIUM IS LIFTED FOR CPRIT
Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus on Oct. 30 authorized the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a state-funded agency, to resume grant operations and finalize remaining contracts.
The authorization lifts a moratorium on grant operations in place since December 2012, when allegations of financial mismanagement arose. This follows what the governor’s office described as “a strict review of the agency’s processes and the passage of major reforms in the 83rd regular session” of the Texas Legislature.
Straus said reforms passed by the Legislature would make the institute more transparent and accountable to the public and lawmakers “will closely monitor CPRIT in order to ensure that the agency’s mission is realized and taxpayer dollars are used properly.”
VAN PROMOTES SOBER DRIVING
Texas Department of Transportation on Oct. 24 announced a “Fan Van” will visit many college and professional football games across the state to remind fans about the importance of planning for a sober ride home.
The TxDOT Fan Van is a football-shaped vehicle staffed and designed to educate fans about the consequences of drinking and driving.
“Alcohol-related traffic crashes in Texas were alarmingly high last football season. More than 1,600 total crashes occurred when a Texas college or professional football team was playing,” TxDOT said.
Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association, headquartered in Austin.