Last Friday, a U.S. District Judge in Austin ruled in favor of abortion activists and struck down a Texas law slated to go into effect on Monday, September 1, 2014. The law would have required abortion clinics to meet the same regulatory standards as other ambulatory surgical centers. Federal Judge Lee Yeakel, in a 21-page opinion, found the law too restrictive to pass constitutional muster.
The law sought to bring abortion clinics in line with surgical centers
The law would have imposed new standards on existing abortions clinics in Texas, to include regulations for ventilation equipment, hallway width and ceiling height, and staffing, among other requirements which generally apply to hospital-style surgical centers. After the law was passed, about a dozen of Texas’s twenty abortion clinics announced their decisions to close rather than renovate or build new facilities.
Opponents of the law argued the new standards, although couched in terms of promoting better medical care for women who seek abortions, actually amounted to an unlawful attempt by the state to restrict a woman’s legal right to abortion services.
Judge Yeakel agreed with opponents of the law, finding the increased standards would impose an undue burden on the rights of women in Texas without providing significant medical benefits.
Why constitutional issues are important to your business
Regardless what type of business you are in, there are at least a few – and in many industries far more than a few – regulatory requirements imposed by the government, whether the issue is women’s health, the environment, financial transactions or simply licensing and tax obligations. Compliance with government regulations is a cost of doing business, but regulations should not be unduly burdensome on either the business owner or the end consumer.
Generally speaking, to comply with the U.S. Constitution, government regulations must be narrowly written to serve a specific purpose. Multiple levels of scrutiny have been developed in a multitude of cases over the years to measure the constitutionality of government actions in a variety of circumstances.
The bottom line is that laws regulating business activities must be reasonably necessary and not unduly restrictive to the business or end consumer to withstand a constitutional challenge.
Texas Attorney General plans to appeal
Of course, the legal fight isn’t over until all avenues of appeal are abandoned or exhausted. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he plans to appeal Judge Yeakel’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
Make an appointment to review your business’s regulatory environment
Be sure your business is in compliance by consulting with our experienced Bryan-College Station, Texas business law attorneys at Peterson Law Group. We answer questions and provide sound advice for compliance and all other legal issues related to your business. Schedule an appointment by calling 979-703-7014, or fill out our online contact form.