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The Brief: Aug. 13, 2014

As the first phase of the latest legal fight over Texas' new abortion regulations comes to a close, the fate of one of the law's key provisions hangs in the balance.

A hallway at the Whole Woman's Health clinic in Austin.

The Big Conversation

As the first phase of the latest legal fight over Texas' new abortion regulations comes to a close, the fate of one of the law's key provisions hangs in the balance. 

The provision, part of an omnibus abortion bill passed by the Legislature last summer, would require abortion clinics to meet the same regulations as ambulatory surgical centers. As the Tribune's Alexa Ura writes, during the trial, which began last week, the state's lawyers have argued that the new rule would improve patient safety and that abortion is more dangerous than providers admit. On the other side, lawyers for a group of Texas abortion providers have said the law would shut down a majority of the state's abortion clinics, effectively cutting off access to the procedure for hundreds of thousands of Texas women. 

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who is presiding over the case, is expected to rule within the next few weeks.

Both sides, however, already appear to be looking toward the next fight. The spotlight has turned to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which would hear an appeal from whichever side loses the first round

Though the conservative 5th Circuit was expected to be sympathetic to the state's arguments, a panel on the court recently struck down a Mississippi law that would have closed the state's last abortion clinic. 

And as the Houston Chronicle's Brian Rosenthal writes:

The full court has sat for more than four months on a request by Texas abortion providers for a fuller review of their first challenge, possibly signaling the jurists' intent to consolidate all three cases to settle the issue.

"It's possible that the court may be waiting, and they want to be consistent," said Aaron Bruhl, a University of Houston Law Center associate professor and former clerk on the 5th Circuit. "We don't know what will happen. It's hard to say what this court will do on this issue."

The Day Ahead

•    The House Defense and Veterans' Affairs Committee will meet at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce at 9:30 a.m. to review the Texas Military Preparedness Commission and other matters.

Trib Must-Reads

New Ruling Keeps Old Travel Records Secret, by Jay Root

Senators Debate Funding, Merits of National Guard Deployment, by Eli Okun

Proposed Water Supply Project Draws Praise, Concerns in San Antonio, by Neena Satija


Texas abortion law could send women across bordersThe Associated Press

Lawmakers seek better return on Emerging Tech Fund investmentsHouston Chronicle

RickPAC unveils first web adHouston Chronicle

Joaquin Castro is thinking more and more about TexasThe Washington Post

Wendy Davis team’s meeting signals Dallas area’s key role in political homestretch, The Dallas Morning News

Over 300,000 Must Prove Eligibility or Lose Health CareThe New York Times

Concerns raised about transparency of TxDOT funding, El Paso Times

Quote to Note

"You're welcome. I'm awesome!"

— Gov. Rick Perry in response to being thanked for attending a Des Moines Register event at the Iowa State Fair on Tuesday

Today in TribTalk

Why the Texas Enterprise Fund is worth it, by Jason Villalba

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Health Care: What's Next?: Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith will lead a discussion with two of the Legislature's most respected thinkers on health care, state Reps. Garnet Coleman and John Zerwas, on Aug. 18 in Richardson. The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required. 

•    The Texas Tribune Festival runs from Sept. 19-21 at the University of Texas at Austin.

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