Doctors Claim Texas Hospital Truckled to Abortion Protesters
DALLAS (CN) - A Texas hospital illegally revoked admitting privileges of doctors who perform abortions elsewhere after pro-life protesters demanded it, the gynecologists claim in court.
The state's tough abortion restrictions, enacted by the Legislature as 2013 House Bill 2 require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their medical facility. This resulted, as planned, in the closure many clinics that were unable to comply.
The 5 th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on March 27 the requirement is constitutional. On Thursday, Drs. Lamar Robinson and Jasbir Ahluwalia sued UGHS Dallas Hospitals in Dallas County Court.
Robinson performs abortions at Abortion Advantage; Ahluwalia is medical director of the Routh Street Women's Clinic.
The doctors applied for and were granted admitting privileges at University General Hospital in Dallas after passage of HB 2.
Later Thursday, District Judge Sheryl McFarlin temporarily reinstated the doctors' privileges until an April 30 hearing to determine if a temporary injunction is necessary.
The doctors say their privileges were terminated after the hospital was targeted by protesters in the days after the 5th Circuit ruling.
Neither doctor performs abortions at the hospital.
"On March 31, 2014, UGHD's new chief executive officer, Chuck Schuetz, revoked plaintiffs' privileges and, on information and belief, assured the protesters that UGHD would be 'pro-life' and would not associate with those who provide abortions," the 29-page complaint states.
"UGHD admitted in its letter to plaintiffs that it had decided to revoke their privileges because they provide abortions elsewhere."
The doctors say the Texas Occupations Code prohibits hospitals from discriminating against doctors who refuse to perform abortions or who are willing to perform abortions at another facility. The complaint cites a brief filed by the state before the 5th Circuit's ruling that echoes their argument.
"Texas law ... ensur[es] that doctors who perform abortions will not encounter discrimination from the hospitals that must decide whether to award them admitting privileges," the brief stated. "Not only does Texas law expressly prohibit hospitals from discriminating against doctors who perform abortions, it also confers a private right of action on victims of this unlawful discrimination."
The doctors say their loss of privileges has been "devastating" on their patient relationships and with their standing in the medical community.
"While hospital admitting privileges are not medically necessary to the safe and effective provision of an abortion ... they are now required by Texas state law," the complaint states. "Unless and until HB 2 is struck down as unconstitutional or otherwise invalid, plaintiffs cannot provide abortion services in Texas without admitting privileges. UGHD's decision to revoke those privileges has forced plaintiffs to suspend the core of their practices indefinitely. Their patients' ability to obtain timely abortion care has been disrupted, and their patients no longer have access to abortion care from their chosen doctor."
The doctors call the hospital's reasons for termination of privileges "inapt excuses": that the hospital claimed obstetric procedures are not within its scope of services, among other things.
"UGHD knew that plaintiffs provided abortion elsewhere, at the Routh Street Clinic and at Abortion Advantage, and intentionally acted to sever its ties with plaintiffs and to prevent them from carrying on their clinical practices and providing abortion elsewhere," the complaint states. "UGHD would not have revoked plaintiffs' gynecological privileges at the hospital at the time UGHD did but for the fact that they provide abortions as part of their medical practices elsewhere."
UGHS did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The doctors seek a temporary injunction for violations of the Texas Occupations Code. They are represented by Barry Barrett with Susman Godfrey in Dallas and Kaitlin Farrell with Debevoise Plimpton in New York.