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Court reinstates most of Texas’ new abortion rules

AUSTIN, Texas – A federal appeals court on Thursday issued a ruling reinstating most of Texas’ tough new abortion restrictions in a decision that means as many as 12 clinics won’t be able to perform the procedure starting as soon as Friday.

A panel of judges at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling three days after District Judge Lee Yeakel said one provision serves no medical purpose.

The panel says the law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital can take effect while a lawsuit moves forward. The restrictions could take effect Friday.

The panel left in place a portion of Yeakel’s order that prevents the state from enforcing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol for abortion-inducing drugs in cases where the woman is between 50 and 63 days into her pregnancy. Doctors testifying before the court had said such women would be harmed if the protocol were enforced.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had made an emergency appeal to the conservative 5th Circuit, arguing that the law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges is a constitutional use of the Legislature’s authority.

Lawyers for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers had argued that the regulations did not protect women and would shut down a third of the abortion clinics in Texas.

The court’s order is temporary until it can hold a complete hearing, likely in January. The restrictions are among the toughest in the nation and gained notoriety when Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis launched a nearly 13-hour filibuster against them in June. The law also bans abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy and beginning in October 2014 requires doctors to perform all abortions in surgical facilities.

During the trial, officials for one chain of abortion clinics testified that they’ve tried to obtain admitting privileges for their doctors at 32 hospitals, but so far only 15 accepted applications and none have announced a decision. Many hospitals with religious affiliations will not allow abortion doctors to work there, while others fear protests if they provide privileges. Many have requirements that doctors live within a certain radius of the facility, or perform a minimum number of surgeries a year that must be performed in a hospital.

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