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The Brief: Jan. 8, 2015

Unexpectedly tough lines of questioning by federal appeals court judges hearing arguments over Texas' requirement that abortion clinics meet hospital-like standards buoyed hopes of abortion rights supporters on Wednesday.

An abortion procedure room at the Whole Woman's Health ambulatory surgical center in San Antonio.

The Big Conversation

Unexpectedly tough lines of questioning by federal appeals court judges hearing arguments over Texas' requirement that abortion clinics meet hospital-like standards buoyed hopes of abortion rights supporters on Wednesday.

A three-judge panel for the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is weighing whether to uphold a provision from a 2013 state law that would force facilities that perform abortions to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

"Judge Catharina Haynes, the most vocal of the three judges Wednesday, questioned the state’s argument that all of the hospital-like standards being imposed on abortion facilities would improve women’s safety," the Tribune's Alexa Ura wrote. “'What about that improves the standard of care?' Haynes asked Jonathan Mitchell of the Texas solicitor general’s office, referencing requirements for larger rooms in abortion facilities that would force most abortion providers to retrofit their clinics. 'Why can’t you have a sterile environment in a 3,000-square-foot building?'”

Others look at the Texas law and see implications across the nation as a whole for abortion rights.

"The core question raised by the Texas case and others is where the constitutional boundaries lie, as anti-abortion forces, unable to ban the procedure outright, seek to use clinic regulations to raise costs and limit access," wrote Erik Eckholm of The New York Times.

“'How many clinics do you have to close before the court says, ‘Enough’?' asked B. Jessie Hill, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University who is not involved in the case. 'Can you leave a state the size of Texas with only seven clinics?'"

The Day Ahead

•    Gov.-elect Greg Abbott gives a breakfast keynote address at the second day of the three-day policy orientation held by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm and former U.S. Rep. Kent Hance discuss the Reagan tax cuts in a lunch keynote address.

•    Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick holds a 10 a.m. press conference at the state Capitol to discuss his vision for the Texas Senate.

Trib Must-Reads

Attempts To Dupe Immigration Agents On the Rise, by Julián Aguilar

John Cornyn Steps Up, Says He'll Spare the Whip, by Abby Livingston

Senate Could Start Fast — and With Fewer Committees, by Ross Ramsey

Abbott Won't Keep Longtime Texas Music Office Director, by Reeve Hamilton

Lakey Leaving DSHS, but Not Public Health, by Reeve Hamilton and Alexa Ura

Elsewhere

Quake outbreak intrigues scientists, rattles residents, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Villarreal boasts business community support, San Antonio Express-News

Rick Perry is NH bound again, NH1

Iowa's Family Leader to host multiple cattle calls for 2016ers, Politico

‘School choice’ would save Texas billions, groups say, Austin American-Statesman

El Paso VA clinic shooter had threatened doctor, El Paso Times

Study may spur lawmakers to look at cutting youth lockups, Houston Chronicle

African-braiding teacher has excellent hair day after ruling goes against Texas regulators, The Dallas Morning News

U.S. surveillance drones largely ineffective along border, report says, Washington Post

Quote to Note

"America stands with France. We do so not just because the French are our friends and allies, but because it is important for the free world to stand together against those who seek to intimidate us."

— House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, calling for solidarity after the terrorist attack against a French newspaper in which 12 were killed

Today in TribTalk

What Texas learned from the last boom gone bust, by Billy Hamilton

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Senate Caucus Chairs Kirk Watson and Joan Huffman on Jan. 12 at The Austin Club

•    Meet the New Guys in the House: Reps. Celia Israel, Linda Koop and César Blanco on Jan. 14 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With House Public Education Chair Jimmie Don Aycock on Jan. 22 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick on Jan. 27 at The Austin Club

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