A federal judge is trying to decide if new abortion rules in Texas should be struck down or be allowed to take effect next week.
Closing arguments on the 7th floor of the federal courthouse featured a verbal fist fight. Deputy Solicitor General Andrew Oldham and plaintiffs' attorney Janet Crepps each tried to score a knockout punch. Crepps predicted Houston, Dallas and El Paso will be the only cities left in Texas with meaningful access to abortions if abortion doctors are required to have hospital admitting privileges.
"The doctors started immediately to get privileges, you know there was some hope for a few hours when Wendy Davis successfully filibustered that maybe this issue would go away," said Janet Crepps.
While that didn't happen some locations like the Whole Woman's Health clinic in north Austin will stay open at least for another year. They have a doctor who complies with the law. Andrew Oldham seized on that and argued the claim about limited access was an exaggeration and "falls like a house of cards" because there is no substantiated proof mass clinic closures will happen. Sarah wheat with Planned Parenthood said the organization was going to stop providing abortions at its south Austin location.
"Until we can secure those privileges but as you heard it's a lengthy process, we do expect to eventually get those, we hope to but what we can say, as of Tuesday we will have to discontinue providing those services," said Wheat.
Pro-choice advocates also want the court to strike down the rule making doctors follow FDA labeling when using abortion inducing medications. Crepps said it's an "unreasonable regulation" that bans a safe practice of allowing women to take a second dose somewhere other than a clinic. But Oldham- who was not authorized to speak on camera- responded in court that medical abortions are "risky procedures" and suggested one extra trip for a woman to get the final dose, from a doctor, in a clinic is "not an excessive burden."
With the new rules taking effect Tuesday, Judge Lee Yeakel promised a quick ruling. The challenged he said is to find a balance between the two arguments.
During the 7th floor face off, the judge interrupted and challenged both attorneys. He told the Pro-Choice side that physicians "cannot ignore" medical standards by claiming they prefer an easier and commonly used practice. He also said when it comes to setting new standards state officials don't get to draw up "unfettered rules" on doctors because they think they can. Regardless of what the judge decides- this case is expected to move on to a federal appeals court.