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The Brief: Nov. 1, 2013

A trio of federal judges gave Greg Abbott and his fellow Republicans a big treat on Halloween evening.

Attorney General Greg Abbott speaks at the National Right to Life convention on June 27, 2013.

The Big Conversation

A trio of federal judges gave Greg Abbott and his fellow Republicans a big treat on Halloween evening, reversing a ruling that had stopped a key provision of Texas' new abortion law.

The state can now enforce language that requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital while the challenge to the law continues through the appeals process. The state had been stopped from doing so on Monday when U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the new regulation placed an undue burden on women.

The state's top Republican leaders were quick to praise the ruling by the three-judge panel — made up of Priscilla R. Owen, Jennifer Walker Elrod and Catharina Haynes — from the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. “This unanimous decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women,” Abbott, the state's attorney general, said in a statement.

He was joined by Gov. Rick Perry who said: “Today's decision affirms our right to protect both the unborn and the health of the women of Texas. We will continue doing everything we can to protect a culture of life in our state.”

On the other side of the debate, abortion-rights advocates were equally disappointed and defiant. Enforcement of the admitting privileges requirement could cause one-third of Texas' abortion facilities to close Friday, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America told The New York Times.

At the same time, Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards — the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards — said the fight would continue. "This restriction clearly violates Texas women's constitutional rights by drastically reducing access to safe and legal abortion statewide," she said. "We will take every step we can to protect the health of Texas women in the wake of this ruling."

The judges wrote that they reversed Yeakel's ruling because the state was likely to prevail with its legal argument and that the lower court ruling "overlooks substantial interests of the state in regulating the medical profession and the state’s interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession."

The Associated Press reports that the order will be in place "until it can hold a complete hearing, probably in January."


•    Nolan Ryan’s next pitch might be in politics (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "With U.S. Sen. John Cornyn all but daring the Tea Party to challenge him, and with three opponents chasing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, traditional Republicans seem due for a jolt. But Nolan can change all that. Texas Rangers baseball hero Nolan Ryan of Fort Worth is mulling a campaign for state agriculture commissioner, not only pitching Texas beef but also drawing voters to a lineup short on star power."

•    Davis Says She'll Discuss Border Security with Locals (The Texas Tribune): "Gubernatorial candidate and Fort Worth Sen. Wendy Davis said Thursday that state leaders can keep border security a priority while not alienating those communities if local officials are part of the conversation."

•    Abbott: Texas' economic foundation cracking (San Antonio Express-News): "Attorney General Greg Abbott, campaigning Thursday for the 2014 GOP gubernatorial nomination, vowed to bolster the Texas economy by limiting government, lowering taxes and bringing public debt under control. ... Abbott decried the mounting debt amassed by the state and local governments, saying Texas' debt load is second-highest among large states.'The local debt load right here in San Antonio is the highest of any city in this state. We're beginning to see cracks in our economic foundation,' he said."

•    Texas Memorial Museum braces for 75 percent budget cut (Austin American-Statesman): "The Texas Memorial Museum, best known for its fossilized dinosaur tracks, is set to take a $600,000 budget cut that some fear could push the exhibit hall to the brink of extinction. 'Everybody’s concerned it will be living on borrowed time,' said Ed Theriot, the director of the Texas Natural Science Center that operates the museum."

•    Offense, defense line up over Katy ISD's stadium proposal (Houston Chronicle): "Friday night lights aren't what they used to be. Just ask the folks in Katy, who will vote Tuesday whether to approve a new football stadium that would be the most expensive high school venue ever built. At $69 million, the 14,000-seat stadium would surpass by almost $10 million one built specifically for the Allen Eagles two years ago."

Quote to Note: “We believe there are currently 36 health centers in Texas that provide abortions, and one-third will be forced to stop those services tomorrow.” — Amanda Harrington, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, to The New York Times


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Health care Politics David Dewhurst Greg Abbott John Cornyn Rick Perry Wendy Davis