The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a blow to abortion advocates in Texas when it affirmed a ban on the most common method of abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy in a ruling Wednesday night, overturning an earlier decision by judges of that same court last year.
It is the latest defeat for reproductive rights groups in Texas, coming just days before Texas’ controversial new “heartbeat” bill goes into effect Sept. 1, which attempts to ban abortions after that a so-called fetal heartbeat (usually around six weeks pregnant) is detected when opening up to abortion providers and anyone who helps or incites someone seeking such an abortion to an unlimited barrage of civil lawsuits. The law has been challenged in court by pro-abortion groups, but the lawsuit remains unsolved with less than two weeks until September begins.
In October, a Fifth Circuit panel of judges struck down a ban on the frequently used abortion method called dilation and evacuation, or D&E for short, which was passed into law by the Texas Legislature in June 2017 but had stopped in other legal bureaucratic procedures. But in an unusual move, the entire 17-member court ultimately decided to throw out the panel’s decision and moved to have the case heard again in front of the full Fifth Circuit in January, ultimately ruling in favor of the ban on Wednesday by the night.
After Wednesday’s ruling, use of the most common method of abortion in second-trimester pregnancies (which account for about 11 percent of all abortions in the United States) is now punishable by up to two years in prison in the state of Texas. .
Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion provider at the Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, said in a statement that Wednesday’s ruling was “deeply disturbing to me as a physician.”
“By allowing the state to ban the standard method of abortion at this stage of pregnancy, the court has allowed extremist politicians to interfere in private healthcare decisions that should be left between patients and their doctors,” he said.
Whole Woman’s Health president Amy Hagstrom Miller agreed. “This ban is about cutting off access to abortion and nothing else,” she wrote. “In no other area of medicine would politicians consider preventing doctors from using a standard procedure. It should never be a crime for physicians to use their best medical judgment and follow the most current science.
“In no other area of medicine would politicians consider preventing doctors from using a standard procedure. It should never be a crime for physicians to use their best medical judgment and follow the latest science. “- Amy Hagstrom Miller
“Texans deserve the best care available, and this law prevents it,” Hagstrom added. As the six-week ban looms, it is even more apparent that these abortion laws try to make abortion completely inaccessible. ”
In an effort to delay or stop abortions in Texas before the so-called “heartbeat” of a fetus is detected (a misnomer given that medical experts describe what abortion advocates call the heartbeat as simple pulses fetal tissue), SB 8 allows anyone, Texan or not, to sue anyone who has performed an abortion of this type or who has helped or convinced someone to have an abortion during that period of time for up to $ 10,000 in damages. Any person sued under this law is required to pay up to $ 10,000 in damages, can be sued by an infinite number of people, and cannot be reimbursed for legal fees even if they prevail in court.
Whole Woman’s Health, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU of Texas and the Center for Reproductive Rights are among the many abortion advocates who filed suit in July to try to stop the Legislature’s latest abortion ban from taking effect on September 1. . But with that deadline fast approaching, it seems increasingly unlikely that the enactment of the law will stop with each passing day.
In a statement to the Houston PressPlanned Parenthood Center for Choice President and CEO Melaney Linton said, “Our lawsuit is ongoing and we are hopeful that the court will block this draconian law and protect Texans’ access to essential health care.”
“Regardless, we are doing everything we can to prepare in the event that the law goes into effect on September 1,” he continued. “Our patients come first and we are ready to help them overcome this incredibly difficult situation, although no one should have to ‘prepare’ to lose access to essential medical care due to political attacks.”
Marc Hearron, senior legal counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights and the lead attorney on the case, told the press in a statement that “At this time, we are doing everything we can to prevent this law from taking effect before September 1. If this unconstitutional law goes into effect, it will decimate access to abortion in Texas. We will seek all the legal avenues we can to prevent that from happening. ”
Linton explained that if the lawsuit to block the heartbeat law fails, Planned Parenthood “will continue to provide expert and compassionate abortion care for patients who are within the new legal limit of around six weeks, which we sadly know will be only one fraction of people needing care ”, considering that most women do not even realize they are pregnant before a fetal“ heartbeat ”can be detected.
“For the vast majority of people beyond the six-week mark, Planned Parenthood and our coalition partners stand ready to help connect patients with out-of-state care and resources to aid in that cumbersome process.” Linton said.