Tag Archives: Lee Yeakel

Texas abortion fight takes key turn

A federal judge has ruled that a critical part of the Texas anti-abortion violates the U.S. Constitution.

Good for him.

The judge is Lee Yeakel, who presides over the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Texas. His ruling declares that a provision in the law that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospitals puts an unfair restriction on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion if she chooses.

Judge strikes down Texas abortion restrictions

Thus, the fight will continue. The state is certain to appeal this ruling. The leading candidate for governor, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, is a strong supporter of the law; his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis, rocketed to national political fame when she led a filibuster in 2013 to “kill” temporarily the bill that would become state law.

Yeakel ruled that the intent of the law was to close only existing licensed abortion clinics. The law, he said, goes too far in establishing the stricter standards on par with ambulatory surgical centers.

So, why the curious turn here?

Yeakel was appointed to the federal bench by Republican President George W. Bush, another strong anti-abortion politician.

I’m as certain as I’m sitting here that we’re going to hear comments from critics of the ruling declare their disgust with “unelected” federal judges overreaching and “writing laws from the bench.”

Again, this is the beauty — not the bane — of the federal judicial system. Judges aren’t beholden to their political benefactors, the politicians who select them for these lifetime jobs.

Abbott says he’ll appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans, where he thinks he’ll get it overturned.

Would those judges be overreaching and writing laws from the bench?



Texas abortion law takes strange turn

Well, how about this: A federal judge nominated by a recent Republican president has overturned part of Texas’s controversial anti-abortion law.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, picked for the federal bench in Austin by President George W. Bush in 2003, has tossed a serious wrench into the state’s effort to make abortion an illegal act in Texas.


Yeakel has ruled that the portion of the law that requires abortion providers to be within 30 miles of hospital is unconstitutional. Here is how Texas Tribune reported the judge’s ruling: “Abortion providers would have been required to obtain hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of the abortion facility and follow federal standards for the administration of abortion-inducing drugs. Yeakel ruled that the hospital privileges requirement was unconstitutional because it created an undue burden on women without serving a rational purpose. He also said drug-induced abortions could be performed following a common evidence-based regimen if the physician believed it was safer for the patient.”

The state has asked for a stay of the judge’s ruling. No word as I write this about whether the stay has been granted.

Here’s a case of a judge unencumbered by politics, ruling without threat of reprisal.

I do like the federal standard for judicial appointments. A lot of federal judges over many decades have disappointed their political sponsors by issuing rulings that run counter to the political leanings of the person who appoints them. Critics of these judges usually label them a “activist” or “out of the mainstream” or some other pejorative term.

My own view is that judges should be free to rule on the law as they interpret it without fearing for their political survival. State judges — such as those we elect in Texas — often are punished at the ballot box for delivering decisions that upset voters, regardless of the legal correctness of that decision.

Judge Yeakel has opened a big-time debate now in Texas over whether the anti-abortion law — which produced a legislative debate that propelled Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis onto the national stage with her wild filibuster — can pass constitutional muster.

Oh, the complexity of a democratic form of government.