A Federal Judge in Austin is being asked to stop two key parts of the new Texas Abortion law. Initially it was expected only a hearing would be held Monday to consider a request to delay implementation of the law, but both sides agreed to roll the case into a fast-track trial.
Attorneys arrived at Austin's new Federal Courthouse Monday ready to battle this old but reoccurring issue. New abortion restrictions are set to take effect in Texas later this month.
"It goes too far, and it puts women's health at risk." said Sarah Wheat with Planned Parenthood.
Pro-Choice supporters filed suit last month in a last ditch effort to prevent enforcement.
"If this law is able to go into effect, we have patients, particularly in certain parts of the state and certain cities and communities where safe legal abortion will not be available any longer in their community," said Wheat.
The federal lawsuit targets two new rules. One requires doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of their clinics. The other sets procedures for the prescription of abortion inducing drugs based on FDA standards.
A UT Demographer testified about a survey his team of students of professors conducted to determine the impacts of HB 2. Dr. Joseph Potter testified the majority of women who will have to travel more than 100 miles to seek an abortion, when the law takes effect, currently live in the Texas Panhandle. Attorneys for the state challenged Potter's assumptions that a large number of clinics and suggested he failed to properly consider some clinics may close due to economic reasons rather than the new rules.
Earlier this year the state capitol was the battle ground. The fight against the controversial legislation made Democrat Wendy Davis a gubernatorial candidate although HB 2 eventually won passage during a Special Session.
When the capitol debate got underway, both sides claimed they were protecting women's health. But during opening statements, attorneys for the state admitted the law was also drafted to make it difficult to get an abortion, with in the federal law framework.
State Rep. Bryan Hughes was among those who packed into the 7th floor courtroom Monday to listen to the new arguments. The east Texas Republican said he remains convinced the law he fought for - does not create an un-due burden on women.
"There's many of us who feel strongly that the little unborn baby is an individual with a right to life at conception, we should protect it, this Bill does not do that- this Bill takes a step in that direction but this Bill does not begin to ban all abortions," said Hughes.
As of right now, the trial is not taking up two other controversial parts of the state law. The abortion ban after 20 weeks, which is based on the fetal pain argument, still stands. The part making abortion clinics meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers does not go into effect until next year.
Testimony will continue Tuesday and ruling could come by Friday. Regardless of what is decided in the Austin Federal Courthouse, both sides in the fight agree this case is far from over. Appeals are expected – setting up a possible final battle before the U.S. Supreme Court.