A Texas law banning an abortion method commonly used to end second-trimester pregnancies has been upheld by a federal appeals court in New Orleans.
The 2017 law in question has never been applied. It aims to ban the use of forceps to remove a fetus from the uterus without first using an injected drug or a suction procedure to ensure the fetus is dead.
Abortion rights advocates have argued that the law, known as SB8 in court records, actually prohibits what is often the safest method of abortion for women in the second trimester of pregnancy – a procedure medically known as dilation and evacuation.
They also argued that fetuses cannot feel pain during the legally affected gestation period, and that an alternative described by the state, the use of suction to remove a fetus, also results in a dismemberment, not just the forceps method.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals blocked enforcement last year. But Texas requested, and was granted, a rehearing in full court.
A majority of the 14 appeals judges who heard arguments in January sided with Texas on Wednesday. The opinion, from Justices Jennifer Walker Elrod and Don Willett, said: “The record shows that physicians can safely perform D&E and comply with SB8 using methods that are already widely used.”
Judge James Dennis wrote a dissent, which said Texas law “under the guise of regulation, makes it a crime to perform the most common and safest abortion procedure used in the second trimester.”
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the group was analyzing the decision and considering all of its legal options.
“Texas has worked hard to legislate abortion abolition, and it’s infuriating that a federal court would uphold a law that so clearly defies decades of Supreme Court precedent,” Northup said.
“At a time when the health care needs of Texans are greater than ever, the state should make abortion more accessible, not less. There is no doubt that today’s decision will hurt those who already face the greatest barriers to health care.
Texas Right to Life applauded the decision.
“If the abortion industry appeals today’s decision, the Supreme Court must answer the dynamic legal question of the case: ‘Is an abortion by dismemberment inhumane enough to warrant a legal ban? ?” read the statement from the anti-abortion group.