A federal judge in Texas has extended his Aug. 31 stay of a new abortion law until Nov. 2 when a suit brought by Whole Women’s Health will be heard in court. The law, which bars the use of a technique called D&E—“dilation and evacuation”—was to take effect Sept. 1. There is little doubt the ruling will be appealed.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel said that unless Roe v. Wade is overturned, he must follow the no “undue burden” standard when gauging the constitutionality of abortion laws. Imposing the law, Yeakel said, would force women to “suffer irreparable harm by being unable to access the most commonly used and safest” second-trimester abortion procedure. State and federal courts have blocked similar laws in five other states. While reproductive rights activists were happy about the ruling, they know this is just the beginning. Sophie Novack reported Aug. 31:
But this is the first battle in what is likely to be a long legal war. Yeakel wearily acknowledged as much on Tuesday, during a hearing on the temporary halt to the law. He called his court a “whistlestop on the train on the way to New Orleans, then on to Washington” for anti-abortion lawsuits, referring to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
There is a “constant never-ending stream of these cases and I think it will continue,” said a frustrated Yeakel about the new law, which would have gone into effect Friday. “It seems like the Legislature just jumps out and produces statutes, they’re signed by the governor, and then we start over here.”
Last year, in the seminal Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt case, the Supreme Court shot down a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to be mini-hospitals and abortion-providing physicians to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, saying these restrictions placed an “undue burden” on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. That was the first elaboration of what the vague “undue burden” standard actually means since the court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.
But like their counterparts in several other states, Texas forced-birthers are relentless. And like those counterparts, they have eagerly depicted D&E as inhumane. As with the “partial birth abortion” campaign more than a decade ago, the forced-birthers have created a non-medical term—“dismemberment abortion”—to further their cause in as many states as they can get on board.
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