Federal appeals court upholds Texas ban on standard abortion procedure

Stefani Reynolds

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a 2017 Texas law banning an abortion method widely considered to be a standard procedure in second-trimester pregnancies, a decision that could eventually be brought before the Supreme Court. 

A majority of the judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and other defendants in the case, defending the law that prohibits certain procedures without first making sure if the fetus is alive.

Supporters of the law, which has never been enforced, refer to the standard abortion practice as a “dismemberment abortion,” while it is known medically as dilation and evacuation.

While a three-judge panel of the same appeals court blocked enforcement of the law last year, the judges in Wednesday’s majority opinion said that viewing the law, ​​known as SB8 in court records, “through a binary framework—that either D&Es can be done only by live dismemberment or else women cannot receive abortions in the second trimester—is to accept a false dichotomy.” 

“Instead, the record shows that doctors can safely perform D&Es and comply with SB8 using methods that are already in widespread use,” the judges added. 

Abortion advocates have argued that dilation and evacuation is one of the safest abortion methods in the second trimester of pregnancy, and that fetuses are not able to feel pain during the pregnancy period specified in the Texas law. 

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, which is one of the plaintiffs in the case, on Wednesday argued that the Texas ban “is about cutting off abortion access, and nothing else.” 

“In no other area of medicine would politicians consider preventing doctors from using a standard procedure,” she said in a statement. “It should never be a crime for doctors to use their best medical judgment and follow the most current science.” 

She went on to say, “Texans deserve the best care available, and this law prevents that.” 

“As the six-week ban is looming, it’s even more apparent that these abortion laws are about making abortion completely inaccessible,” she added, referring to the new Texas law set to take effect in September that would ban nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks after a woman becomes pregnant. 

Planned Parenthood President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson also condemned Wednesday’s appeals court ruling, calling it “a discriminatory attack against people of color, people with low incomes, women, and those in rural communities.” 

“Bans like these create a world where your ability to control your life depends on who you are and how much money you earn,” she added, vowing to work with the other organizations involved in the case to “continue fighting this dangerous ban in every way possible.”

Tags abortion ban abortion restrictions abortion rights appeals court Planned Parenthood Reproductive rights Texas Whole Woman's Health

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