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Abortion Doctors Sue Hospital Over Revoked Privileges

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Abortion Doctors Sue Hospital Over Revoked Privileges

Picture of Becca  Aaronson

This story is part of an ongoing series that 2013 Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism Grantee and National Health Journalism Fellow Becca Aaronson will write for the Texas Tribune on women's health care in the state. For a complete look at Aaronson's extensive coverage, click here.

photo by: Todd Wiseman / Callie Richmond
photo by: Todd Wiseman / Callie Richmond
Friday, April 18, 2014
In a recently filed lawsuit, two Texas abortion doctors allege a Dallas-area hospital revoked their admitting privileges shortly after it became the target of anti-abortion protesters. 

The plaintiffs, Dr. Lamar Robinson, owner of Abortion Advantage, and Dr. Jasbir Ahluwalia, the medical director of Routh Street Women’s Clinic, allege that University General Hospital in Dallas revoked their admitting privileges four days after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled new abortion regulations requiring doctors to have nearby hospital admitting privileges were constitutional. The lawsuit does not seek monetary relief but asks the court to require immediate reinstatement of their admitting privileges.

Dallas County District Judge Sheryl Day McFarlin granted the doctors' request for a temporary reinstatement of admitting privileges and scheduled a hearing on the merits of the case on April 30. 

New abortion regulations passed by the Republican-led Texas Legislature last summer require doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of where the abortion is performed, among other terms. The rules took effect in November.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a constitutional challenge to the rules in March. In the opinion issued by the three-judge panel, Justice Edith Jones wrote that the state's "articulation of rational legislative objectives, which was backed by evidence placed before the state Legislature, easily supplied a connection between the admitting-privileges rule and the desirable protection of abortion patients’ health." The court also stressed that Texas law prohibits hospitals from discriminating against doctors who perform voluntary abortions when they grant admitting privileges.

Four days after the 5th Circuit’s ruling, University General Hospital in Dallas sent a letter to the doctors saying that their admitting privileges had been revoked because the plaintiffs “perform ‘voluntary interruption of pregnancies’ as a regular part of [their] medical practice” at other facilities, according to the lawsuit. Robinson was first granted admitting privileges by the hospital in December 2013, and Ahluwalia received admitting privileges in January 2014.

University General Hospital could not immediately be reached for comment. A receptionist said the hospital was conducting an all-staff meeting.

In March, anti-abortion protesters targeted University General Hospital for granting Robinson admitting privileges and demanded that the hospital revoke the privileges of any doctor who performs voluntary abortions.

A Catholic blogger who helped organize the protests commended the hospital on March 28 for revoking Robinson’s privileges.

This story was originally published in the Texas Tribune.

Photo Credit: Todd Wiseman/Callie Richmond