AUSTIN, Texas, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Texas defended its requirement that abortion clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers Monday as clinics asked a judge to overturn the law.
Outside the courthouse in Austin, about 100 protesters from both sides gathered in a park. Anti-abortion activists held a prayer vigil in support of the law.
About half of the 41 clinics in the state have already closed because they were unable to meet a requirement that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Jan Soifer, a lawyer for the clinics, said that the surgical center rules, which take effect Sept. 1, are likely to "drastically reduce the number and geographical distribution of abortion facilities in this state."
The state could end up with fewer than 10 clinics, Soifer said.
Deputy Attorney General Jimmy Blacklock accused clinics of playing politics by shutting down instead of making the changes needed to comply with the law. He said that 85 percent of the women in the state live within 150 miles of a clinic.
The law, advocated by Gov. Rick Perry, passed in 2013 during a special legislative session. The fight over the bill made state Sen. Wendy Davis, now the Democratic candidate for governor, into a national political figure when she held an ultimately unsuccessful filibuster to block its passage.
The non-jury trial could take several days. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel is expected to rule by Sept. 1.