Judges on a federal appeals court panel expressed skepticism Monday that a Texas abortion law puts an unconstitutional "undue burden" on women.
Abortion rights advocates argue the new law has closed all the clinics in Texas' Rio Grande Valley, forcing women there to travel hundreds of miles.
But the three judges on the panel, part of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, headquartered in New Orleans, didn't appear to be buying that argument, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Earlier, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to block two provisions of the Texas law -- one requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed, and the other restricting how doctors administer abortion-inducing drugs.
The groups argue that the enforcement of the privileges requirement would force at least one-third of the state's abortion clinics to close, which would prevent more than 20,000 women annually from getting access to an abortion, CBS News reported.
Monday, responding to an argument that said women would have to drive hundreds of miles for an abortion, U.S. Circuit Judge Edith Jones said, "You know how long that takes in Texas at 75 miles an hour? That's a particularly flat highway," the Chronicle reported.
U.S. Circuit Judges Jennifer Elrod and Catharina Haynes skeptically questioned Janet Crepps, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, on the argument that forcing abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals creates an "undue burden" for women, the Chronicle said.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled in October that the challenged provisions place an unconstitutional burden on women seeking abortions, but the appeals court permitted Texas to enforce the law while the case goes on.
The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 in November not to block the appeals court's action allowing the law to be enforced.
Monday, the appeals court did not indicate when it would rule on the challenge.
The law passed the Republican-controlled Legislature despite a filibuster in June by Democratic state Rep. Wendy Davis, CBS said. Davis is now running for governor.
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