North Carolina officials have gotten a valuable signal from a federal judge in Texas when it comes to restrictions on abortion rights. Judge Lee Yeakel of the Lone Star State ruled in a decision released Monday that a provision of Texas law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unfair to women seeking abortions in that it puts an undue obstacle in their path to desired care.
An undue burden is how Yeakel characterized the law. Yeakel also struck a provision of the law requiring doctors to strictly follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol for administering an abortion-inducing pill. The judge said the state could not intervene if a doctor determines, in appropriate medical judgment, to perform the medication-abortion using off-label protocol for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.
Texas lawmakers who wanted to impose restrictions on doctors and clinics that would have effectively put some out of business argued that they were all about protecting the health of women. In fact, that was part of a strategy to play to the most arch-conservative base of the GOP to curb abortion rights.
Gov. Pat McCrory in his campaign for governor promised not to support further abortion restrictions. But he broke that promise in signing a law that restricts access by requiring clinics to adopt some practices of ambulatory surgical centers and requiring women to take the first dose of an abortion-inducing drug under a doctors supervision. Further rules were left to officials of the state Department of Health and Human Services to determine, followed by likely hearings.
The ruling in Texas should give pause to those who would impose even stronger restrictions. Officials would do well to understand the ruling and to let womens health, and health alone, guide their determinations rather than the anti-abortion ideology of some radical lawmakers.