Texas Abortion Law Goes to Court (Again)

Over a year ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law scores of new requirements for the state’s abortion providers following Senator Wendy Davis’ dramatic albeit failed filibuster.  Much has changed in Texas politics since last July; state Senator Davis will be on the gubernatorial ballot in November while Governor Perry actively preps for another presidential run and many state Senators on both sides of the debate stand for reelection.  One thing that can’t seem to change, however, is the presence of the consequences of those events in July 2013.  Portions of the law, called HB2, have been taken to court over the past year; some have been upheld while others have been overturned and wait to be heard by a Texas appeals court.  Most recently though is the verdict handed down by a federal judge in late August which halted a key aspect of the legislation.  U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in favor of a clinic suing the state of Texas over provisions that would require abortion facilities to meet standards equal to those of ambulatory surgical centers.  Supporters hold that the law was intended to extend and protect women’s health and safety. Such supporters include gubernatorial favorite and current Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Senator Donna Campbell, who called the third and final point of order against Davis last summer.  The state has already expressed intent to appeal the decision, likely seeking a verdict similar to that which upheld a provision of HB2 requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The verdict comes at a crucial time for Texas politics, particularly the long-term viability of the GOP.  While it would be unreasonable to suggest that Texas will be trading in its red electorate for blue anytime soon, the emergence of a so-called “Battleground Texas” is a stark change from the predictable politics of the nation’s most prominent red state.  The abortion debate and Senator Davis have been central to the emergence of a democratic presence in Texas, primarily concentrated in and around major cities such as Austin, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.  San Antonio’s mayor, Julian Castro, was appointed to the Obama administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development this summer and his brother, Joaquin, serves in the House of Representatives, a presence that some say will contribute to Battleground Texas’ growth.  Many claims of Democratic takeover are overblown, but Texas’ legislature and representatives would be advised to assess their hard-right positions in rapidly growing and changing state that consists increasingly of immigrants and city-dwellers.

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