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Federal Court Strikes Down Texas Ban On Common Abortion Procedure

Abortion-rights supporters confront anti-abortion protesters at a Rally for Life in downtown Austin in 2018.
Abortion-rights supporters confront anti-abortion protesters at a Rally for Life in downtown Austin in 2018.

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a Texas law banning the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions.

Senate Bill 8, which lawmakers passed in 2017,  included a prohibition on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedures. Abortion providers said that left patients with few options.

“Under the statute, all women seeking a second trimester abortion starting at 15 weeks [after their last period] would be required to endure a medically unnecessary and invasive additional procedure that provides no health benefit,” judges wrote in their decision Tuesday. “The law increases the duration of what otherwise is a one-day D&E procedure.”

Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said in a statement that the court ruling is a “win” for Texans.

“Everyone deserves to benefit from advancements in medicine and from expert medical care, no matter where they live,” she said. “With this victory, our physicians can continue to practice to the highest level of their training, and Texans will continue to benefit from their expertise. We are proud, once again, to lead the charge challenging bad laws and ensuring that all Texans get the healthcare they deserve.”

The ban had been a longtime priority for Texas anti-abortion groups that say the method of abortion is gruesome. Courts, however, have overturned similar attempts by other states to outlaw D&Es. 

The two judges who wrote the majority opinion said the ban was a particular burden on low-income women in the state, because they are “often unable to obtain an abortion until this point in their pregnancy.”

Abortion providers in Texas also warned that many women – regardless of income – were waiting until their second trimester to have abortions because they had to drive farther for the procedure. A slew of clinics closed after Texas passed an earlier abortion ban, which was ultimately struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion provider in Texas, said the ruling means he and his colleagues “can continue to provide the highest quality medical care” for patients.

“The state’s attempt to interfere in private, deeply personal health care decisions by banning the most common method of abortion at this stage of pregnancy would have put patients in danger and punished doctors for using our best medical judgment, training, and expertise,” he said.

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio .

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