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US Judge Blocks Texas Abortion Law

FILE - A federal judge ruled against a law that would have closed most Texas facilities that provide abortions, including El Paso's Hilltop Family Planning.

A U.S. federal judge has blocked restrictions that would have banned abortions at most facilities in the southwestern state of Texas.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled against a law Friday that would have required abortion facilities in Texas to meet hospital-level operating standards. The law, scheduled to take effect Monday, would have closed more than a dozen clinics. The state now has 19 abortion providers, the law’s challengers say.

"The overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a pre-viability abortion,'' Yeakel wrote in his 21-page ruling.

Supporters of the law vowed to appeal the decision, saying the measure would protect women's health.

Critics said the law was unnecessary and would have resulted in nearly a million Texas women having to drive more than three hours to get an abortion.

The law was part of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry last year that has already shuttered most of the abortion clinics in the state.

Abortion remains a highly charged issue in the United States after a woman's constitutional right to the procedure was upheld in a landmark 1973 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.