Texas Judge Strikes Down Abortion Restriction Law

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A federal judge has struck down Texas restrictions on a common second-trimester abortion procedure, by ruling that the law blocks a woman’s right to an abortion process.

The Texas law, Senate Bill 8, which was supposed to go into effect in September this year, would have required the doctors to stop the heart of a fetus before it could be removed in an abortion. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel had ruled that the law imposed, is an unnecessary medical procedure on women with no known benefit to them.

“The Act does not further the health of the woman before the fetus is viable,” Yeakel had written in the November 22 decision.

“That a woman may make the decision to have an abortion before a fetus may survive outside her womb is solely and exclusively the woman’s decision. The power to make this decision is her right,” Yeakel had ruled.

Whole Woman’s Health, Planned Parenthood, and several of the other reproductive rights groups sued over the law, which would have blocked common “dilation and evacuation” abortions.

The Texas Attorney General – Ken Paxton has already filed a notice of appeal.

Yeakel wrote that the state’s “legitimate interest in fetal life” does not allow it to require an additional medical procedure “not driven by medical necessity” to complete a standard D&E abortion. The court is unaware of any other medical context — in contravention of the doctor’s medical  judgment and the best interest of the patient — to conduct a medical procedure that delivers no benefit to the woman.”

The district courts exist to preserve the constitutional rights, including a woman’s right to a second-trimester abortion, Yeakel had added. “Once the Supreme Court has defined the boundaries of a constitutional right, a district court may not redefine those boundaries,” he said in his opinion.

The law was passed to block the dismemberment of a fetus in an abortion before its heart has stopped. But abortion providers argued that the methods to stop a fetal heartbeat — which include cutting off the umbilical cord or injecting potassium chloride or digoxin into a fetus — could cause severe health risks to a woman.

At least seven of the other states have similar laws, which are now being challenged in six of those, reports the news sources. Last month an Alabama court also threw out the law, saying that it imposed “significant health risks” on women health, Yeakel had noted in his order.

Senate Bill 8, which had included the ban, also requires, in another section, that the fetal remains from miscarriages and abortions must be buried or cremated. A U.S. District Court judge ruled in January that those rules “likely are unconstitutionally vague and impose an undue burden on the right to an abortion.” Paxton had appealed that decision, and the legal challenge is still pending.