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Judge strikes down Texas abortion ban

Posted at 4:28 PM, Nov 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-23 16:28:07-05

A federal judge has struck down Texas’ ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure.

On Wednesday, US District Judge Lee Yeakel overturned Texas Senate Bill 8 — which was passed earlier this year and banned doctors from performing dilation and evacuation abortions.

“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 wrote.

In a D&E abortion, a doctor dilates the patient’s cervix before dismembering and removing the fetus. Senate Bill 8 banned doctors from performing such abortions unless they first stopped a fetus’ heart using another method.

A number of abortion providers and women’s health groups, including Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health, challenged the law. Banning the procedure — the most common type of abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy — means women must seek riskier alternatives, they argued.

“The court concludes that requiring a woman to undergo an unwanted, risky, invasive, and experimental procedure in exchange for exercising her right to choose an abortion, substantially burdens that right,” Yeakel wrote in Wednesday’s decision.

Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 8 in the spring, and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law in June. It was due to go into effect in September, but Yeakel temporarily blocked Texas from enforcement while the law was being challenged in court.

Abortion rights activists fiercely opposed the law — and staged some dramatic protests against it. In March, when lawmakers were considering the bill, women showed up in the Texas Senate in white bonnets and blood-red cloaks, the uniform from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” In the book, a new ultra-religious American government forces fertile women to carry leaders’ children (and to wear the conservative outfit).

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday he will immediately appeal Yeakel’s decision.

“We will defend Senate Bill 8 all the way to the US Supreme Court, if necessary,” Paxton said in a statement. “During a five-day trial this month in district court, we created a record unlike any other in exposing the horrors of dismemberment abortions. No just society should tolerate the tearing of living human beings to pieces.”

If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, it wouldn’t be the first Texas abortion law to do so. Last year, the high court threw out a Texas abortion access law, which required abortion clinics to have surgical facilities.