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The Brief: Oct. 21, 2013

Texas' abortion wars may flare anew this week as the state's contentious new restrictions head to court.

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Texas' abortion wars may flare anew this week as the state's contentious new restrictions head to court.

Starting today, as The Associated Press reports, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin will hear arguments over the constitutionality of parts of the omnibus abortion law that the Legislature passed in July amid massive protests and a storm of national media attention.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of women's health providers, including Planned Parenthood, filed a suit last month challenging the new law's provisions pertaining to hospital admitting privileges and medical abortions.

The groups will argue that the rule requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of an abortion clinic would cut off access to the procedure in several cities — including Waco, Lubbock and McAllen — because such privileges can be difficult to obtain. According to a court filing, 22,000 women will lose access to the procedure every year if the provision takes effect.

The plaintiffs also argue that new restrictions on the use of abortion-inducing medication are based on outdated medical protocol.

The suit, however, does not seek to block the law's other provisions, like a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

As Jim George, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, explained last month: "Abortions that are performed subsequent to that time limit are relatively rare. The immediate problem that we’re facing here is that there are large parts of the population of Texas that will be effectively precluded from ever getting an abortion by the statutes and provisions that we are challenging.”

The state's legal team, led by Attorney General Greg Abbott, will argue that the groups don't have standing to bring the suit and that the law doesn't create an undue burden on women seeking abortions, according to the San Antonio Express-News. During the legislative fight, supporters of the Republican-backed law said the new regulations would improve women's safety. 

The trial will likely last two days, and a ruling could come as soon as Oct. 28, according to the Express-News

Culled

•    Early voting for the Nov. 5 constitutional amendment election begins today. You can cast a ballot at any early voting location in your county.

•    After long fight, voter ID law takes effect Monday (Austin American-Statesman): "After years of controversy over the Texas voter ID law, the measure is set to take effect Monday for the first time in statewide balloting — and elections officials and poll workers are confident that they are ready. … The law has been used without incident in a few local elections around the state this year, but this is the first time it will be enforced in a statewide election. Aside from some government-sponsored TV and radio ads, there has been little fanfare so far."

•    Ted Cruz gets hero's welcome from Texas GOP women (San Antonio Express-News): "With roars of approval from hundreds of GOP women gathered in San Antonio, Sen. Ted Cruz defended his political tactics in Congress on Saturday and vowed to continue the uphill fight against the new federal health care law despite backlash even from fellow Republicans. Dashing from city to Texas city to meet with constituents now that the federal budget crisis he's blamed for has subsided, Cruz drew a hero's welcome from the Texas Federation of Republican Women meeting at the Grand Hyatt. Acknowledging he's 'reviled' by some in Washington, Cruz said it's a relief to be back where he's 'appreciated.'"

•    Abbott stumps to rev up GOP women for 2014 (San Antonio Express-News): "It was a mostly standard stump speech for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott on Friday, mixing criticism of President Barack Obama's policies with self-praise for his actions as Texas attorney general to protect the unborn and promote job creation. But with an audience of 800 GOP activists at the Texas Federation of Republican Women biennial convention in San Antonio, Abbott tailored his comments for whom he called the state's 'most powerful women.' He challenged the group, which performed 1 million volunteer hours in the past year, to outshine Democrats who'll be working for their 2014 gubernatorial hopeful, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth."

•    Armed Protesters Rally at Alamo Over Gun Restrictions (The Texas Tribune): "Roughly a thousand people turned out at the Alamo on Saturday to protest current state law that prohibits the open carrying of handguns and other gun restrictions."

•    In New Ad, Nolan Ryan Pitches Prop 6 (TT): "In a new television ad produced by the Water Texas PAC, baseball hall of famer Nolan Ryan advocates for Proposition 6, a water financing measure on the November ballot."

Quote to Note: "The United States’ reputation in Israel wasn’t affected by the shutdown, because the Israelis understand that from time to time politicians in a democracy engage in political theater, which is what the shutdown was." — Gov. Rick Perry, who is currently visiting Israel, in an interview with The Washington Times

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