Last week, a federal judge handed down the decision to temporarily block a anti-abortion law set to take effect in the state of Texas on September 1. The law, SB 8, would have gone into effect on Friday and banned two types of procedures that are usually used in second trimester abortions.
The two types of procedures banned within the bill include dilation and evacuation and dilation. As one of the safest surgical abortion methods, dilation and evacuation abortions make up the majority of second trimester abortions. The attempts to limit these procedures are part of a larger effort to end women’s access to abortion throughout the state. The bill passed the Texas state senate this spring and was forwarded to Texas Governor, Greg Abbot, who signed the bill into law in May of 2017.
Pro-choice advocates from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and the Center for Reproductive Rights have called SB 8 unconstitutional and unnecessary. While SB 8 was being debated in the Texas Senate and House, demonstrators protested by dressing in the clothing of Handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Judge Lee Yeakel of the US District Court of the Western Texas District handed down a restraining order that will prevent the law from taking effect until the law’s constitutionality can be determined. A hearing date has been set for September 14, 2017 when arguments for a continued injunction by the reproductive rights advocacy groups who petitioned the court for the injunction in July will be heard.
In his 17 page decision, Yeakel wrote “this court finds no authority for holding that government-mandated medically unnecessary, untested, or a more invasive procedure, or a more complicated and risky procedure with no proven medical benefits over the safe and commonly used banned procedure.” And that the law would force women to undergo procedures that “are more complex, risky, expensive, difficult for many women to arrange, and often involve multi-day visits to physicians, and overnight hospital stays.”
The temporary measure to block SB 8 from taking effect is a victory despite the increase in restrictions for abortion providers and limitation on abortion access in the state of Texas. In August, Texas lawmakers passed a bill to further restrict abortion access. House Bill 214 bans all private health insurance plans and plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace from covering abortion care unless the life of the woman is directly at risk. Instead, women would be required to buy supplemental insurance should they ever think they may need or want an abortion, prompting some Democratic lawmakers to accuse Republicans of forcing women to buy “rape insurance.”
Media Resources: NPR 8/31/17; CBS 8/31/17; NBC News 9/1/17; New York Times 8/31/17; Feminist Newswire 5/30/17, 8/17/17