AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Women in South Texas facing a 200-mile drive for access to legal abortions learned Wednesday that a local clinic shuttered by a sweeping anti-abortion law would reopen, marking the first tangible effect of a court ruling last week that blocked key parts of the state law.<br />
Whole Woman's Health clinic in McAllen, a city near the Mexico border, closed in March after its doctors said they couldn't obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals as the state now requires. But a federal judge ruled Friday that the law created unconstitutional barriers to abortions in South Texas, and the clinic is now set to reopen later this week, chief executive Amy Hagstrom Miller said.<br />
Questions are now also being raised whether the ruling had other broader ramifications than first thought.<br />
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel made two key rulings in Friday's 21-page decision. He struck down a mandate that required all abortion clinics in Texas to adopt costly hospital-level operating standards, and exempted clinics in McAllen and El Paso from an already upheld requirement that doctors who perform abortions obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.<br />
A four-day trial last month narrowly focused on the El Paso and McAllen areas because clinics there serve regions where access to abortions would otherwise be particularly difficult. But language Yeakel included in a separate final judgment has left some questioning whether his order - inadvertently or not - banned the admitting-privileges law at all Texas abortion clinics.<br />
State health officials say they're playing it safe pending guidance from a federal appeals court.<br />
"We would have definitely cited those as violations," Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Carrie Williams said of clinics that would have been in violation of the admitting-privileges law prior to Friday's ruling. "Now we're going to need to parse that out on a case-by-case basis."<br />
Texas currently has 19 abortion providers - already down from more than 40 just two years ago, according to groups that sued the state for the second time over the law known as HB2. Only seven would have remained in business had Yeakel sided with the state.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
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