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Bioscience-Medicine

Abortion Providers Say Latest Federal Ruling Forces Them To Abandon Best Practices For Patients

Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
/
KUT

Doctors in Texas say they are being prohibited from using the best medical practices for patients seeking an abortion in their second trimester.

On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a state ban on what's known as dilation and evacuation, the most common procedure used for abortions during the second trimester. Texas will soon be the only state with such a ban in effect.

Dr. Bhavik Kumar, a staff physician with Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, said the ban means he cannot use a method of abortion that is the “safest” and “most well researched.”

Instead, Kumar said he will soon be required to include added steps that ensures the fetus is dead before a uterus is evacuated, which is typically done via an injection in the abdomen or cervix. He said it could take hours for this part of the procedure to be completed or even up to a day or two. Kumar said this added step also introduces a slight risk to the patient.

“It feels unethical to have to add that additional step in because state law requires it,” he said. “It is unfortunate that we have to do something that is not in the best interest of our patients.”

Opponents of abortion rights in Texas applauded Fifth Circuit's decision, calling the dilation and evacuation procedure “gruesome.” They described the method as one that “kills preborn children by tearing them apart limb by limb.”

Kimberlyn Schwartz, Texas Right to Life’s director of media and communication, said in a statement that the ruling is “a long-awaited victory.”

“Anyone can see the cruelty of dismemberment abortions, ripping a child’s body apart while her heart is still beating,” she said. “We’re grateful the judges recognized this horror.”

Similar bans in other states — including Alabama, Kansas and Ohio — are currently either blocked by court orders or are not being fully enforced.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health and a plaintiff in this case, said the ban is solely about “cutting off abortion access” and nothing more.

“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. Texans deserve the best care available, and this law prevents that.”

This ban, which is expected to go into effect soon, will likely coincide with another law — Senate Bill 8 — that passed this year. SB 8 prohibits abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. That could be as early as five or six weeks into a pregnancy, which is before many women know they are pregnant.

If SB 8 goes into effect and is not blocked by courts before Sept. 1, Kumar said, the ban on the dilation and evacuation procedure “would not have much weight” because abortions would be prohibited well before a second trimester.

“It’s just so confusing. There are just so many laws caught up in this back and forth,” he said. “It is sometimes overwhelming to help patients navigate all this. It just creates this very confusing gauntlet of things people have to navigate.”

Miller said the bans are about “making abortion completely inaccessible” in the state.

“Texas lawmakers are coming at us from both ends and will not stop until abortion is illegal,” she said.

Copyright 2021 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.