A pro-life supporter in the Texas State capitol in Austin, Texas in 2013.
Erich Schlegel—Getty Images
By Eliana Dockterman
October 3, 2014

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Texas can immediately begin to enforce strict new abortion restrictions that will in effect close all except seven abortion facilities in the second largest state in the country.

In August, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that part of a 2013 Texas law requiring clinics in the state to spend millions of dollars on upgrades, to meet equipment and staffing standards as hospital-style surgical centers, was designed not to make the clinics more safe but to make it harder for patients to access abortions.

Yeakel’s ruling suspended the upgrade requirements, reopening abortion clinics in the state. But Thursday’s ruling by the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, will close these facilities again, since the appeals court decided to enforce the law during the appeals process.

The same court is still considering the constitutionality of a 2013 state abortion law.

More than a dozen clinics will be forced to close their doors across the state. There will only be abortion facilities available in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth. There will be none along the Texas-Mexico border, one of the largest urban areas in the state. And women in McAllen, Texas will face a 300-mile drive to reach the nearest abortion facility.

Clinics and pro-choice advocates say that the 2013 law is a backdoor way to outlaw abortion, which has been a constitutional right for women since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. Attorneys for the state balk at this claim, arguing that 9 in 10 women will still be within 150 miles of a provider.

Abortion is a hot-button topic in the state leading up to November’s gubernatorial race. Abortion restrictions are heavily supported by Republican candidate Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who faces off against democrat Wendy Davis, who garnered fame last summer for a 13-hour filibuster that temporarily blocked the law in the state Senate.

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