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Planned Parenthood Files Suit Over Texas Abortion Law

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS/AP) - As expected, the abortion battle launched in the Texas Legislature with House Bill 2 is now headed to the courts.

More than a dozen health care providers filed a federal lawsuit in Austin Friday challenging key provisions of the bill set to take effect October 29.

Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union also joined in the legal challenge.

The new law requires doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, only allows abortions in surgical centers and bans the procedure completely after 20 weeks, while also limiting medical abortions. The lawsuit challenges the provisions requiring admitting privileges and the limits on medical abortions.

"We are going after the two provisions that are going to have the most immediate impact and are going to impact the largest numbers of women," explained Kelly Hart, with Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. "We were always concerned that if this bill were to pass that there would be no providers West of [Interstate] 35. I mean, just think about what that means: when you think about the size of Texas and all of the women who live out in west Texas."

Planned Parenthood says women in Fort Worth, Waco, Harlingen, Killeen, Lubbock and McAllen will be left with nowhere to legally undergo the procedure. Other clinics across the state will remain open but will be unable to operate at the staffing levels they do now, because not all of their physicians have hospital admitting privileges.

Jim George, an attorney handling the suit, said there are many reasons why hospitals would choose to deny admitting privileges to doctors, including religious or political objections to abortion.

Opponents say the restrictions would effectively ban abortion in much of the nation's second most-populous state. Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said Friday, "The real purpose of this law is to make it impossible for women in Texas to get an abortion."

The suit doesn't address the 20-week ban because the overwhelming majority of abortions occur earlier than that threshold. The lawsuit also isn't challenging the surgical center rules -- which providers say will force clinics to make costly upgrades or close -- because they won't take effect until next year. Instead, it seeks a temporary injunction to block requirements that doctors have hospital admitting privileges, as well as limits on medical abortions.

The groups said there are currently 36 licensed facilities in Texas that perform abortions and that 13 of those would be forced to stop doing so based just on the rules that take effect next month.

Women's rights groups have assailed Texas lawmakers for claiming that protecting women's health is the motive behind the tough new restrictions.

Meanwhile, Karen Garnett, Executive Director of Catholic Pro-Life Committee in Dallas said her supporters want to see abortion end in Texas by any means necessary-- and HB 2 is doing exactly what it was intended to do. "Our goal is for an abortion free Texas. Abortion facilities already are closing. Four abortion facilities have closed and are closing since July 1st. With the new law going into effect, we anticipate that many more will close."

The idea of an abortion free Texas doesn't appeal to everyone. "This law is unconstitutional and it interferes with a women's ability to make her own private medical decision and it will absolutely jeopardize women's health and safety," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "I grew up in Texas and learned pretty early on that women only got what they fought for," said Richards, the daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards.

Texas Right to Life released a statement condemning the lawsuit. They called it "another open assault on the protection of Texas women." The statement adds, "these provisions would hold the abortion industry accountable and would ensure the safety of women. The abortion industry continues to demonstrate that it cares not about protecting women's health, but, rather its bottom line."

State Attorney General Greg Abbott, a prominent Republican now running for governor, is named in the lawsuit. His office said it planned to comment later Friday. The groups suing said if they secure a temporary injunction they expect Abbott to appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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