On Thursday, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit challenging a Texas law that bans a common abortion procedure.
Passed during the regular 2017 session, Texas’s Senate Bill 8 imposes a number of regulations on providers, including a requirement to bury or cremate fetal tissue (the Center has already challenged this), a ban on the donation of fetal tissue from an abortion, and ban on a late-term procedure known medically as dilation and extraction—or, among anti-choice advocates, as “partial birth abortion”—which is already illegal in the United States. But there’s yet another regulation in the bill, an amendment slipped in as SB 8 made its way through the Texas legislature: a ban on the use of dilation and evacuation (D&E), one of the most common and safest procedures after 15 weeks. As the Austin Chronicle noted in May, the D&E ban does not include exemptions for rape or incest.
The lawsuit filed today challenges the D&E ban. According to the lawsuit, the ban, “threatens the health of...patients and their access to abortion care,” and “violates patients’ constitutional rights.”
Specifically, a ban on D & E procedures imposes an undue burden on women seeking second-trimester abortions. In addition, to the extent that any physician can continue to provide D & E procedures, the ban violates Plaintiffs’ patients’ right to bodily integrity because it would require them to accept unnecessary, invasive, and potentially painful medical procedures, in order to access their constitutional right to abortion.
But even as the Center for Reproductive Rights and PPFA announced their lawsuit, Texas legislators were holding a special session during which abortion regulations were at the top of their to-do list. The Texas Observer reports that on Thursday, a bill filed during the session, House Bill 86, would strip the medical licenses of doctors who performed abortions.
The bill, introduced by Republican Representative Valoree Swanson, is one of the numerous anti-abortion bills currently up for debate and vote during the short special session. As the Observer notes, Governor Greg Abbott, who called the special session, has given legislators a wish-list of sorts. Abbott’s list of “must-pass agenda items that failed in the regular session” includes three anti-abortion regulations. From Abbott’s website:
Legislation prohibiting financial transactions between a governmental entity and an abortion provider or affiliate of the abortion provider.
Legislation restricting health plan and health benefit plan coverage for abortions.
Legislation strengthening the laws applicable to the reporting of abortions and abortion complications to the Department of State Health Services.
This has been a particularly brutal year for pro-choice advocates and abortion providers in Texas. During the regular session, the state considered over 50 abortion regulations and through SB8 sailed through the legislature, it still wasn’t enough for the virulently anti-choice Abbott.