Trial Concludes in Challenge to Unconstitutional Texas Abortion Restrictions

(PRESS RELEASE) A trial concluded today in Texas federal district court in a lawsuit brought by lead plaintiff Whole Woman’s Health and other Texas abortion providers, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Lawyering Project, and Morrison & Foerster LLP.

The case challenges a Texas measure requiring health care providers to bury or cremate all embryonic and fetal tissue from abortions, miscarriages, and ectopic pregnancy surgeries—regardless of their patients’ personal wishes or beliefs. A federal court temporarily blocked the measure from going into effect, first in January 2017 and again in January of this year. In the trial this week, plaintiffs sought to block the law permanently.

“We’re back in court this week to defend the dignity of Texas women and stop laws designed to shame and stigmatize abortion providers and our patients,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance. “We have seen, time and again, how these politically-motivated restrictions on abortion interfere with a woman’s relationship with her provider, limit her options, and infringe on her and her family’s deeply personal beliefs and decisions. Let’s be clear: politicians, not doctors, created these restrictions, not to improve women’s health care, but to push it out of reach. To that we say, not on our watch.”

“This law is a plain attempt to shame people seeking reproductive health care and make that care harder to get,” said Lourdes Rivera, Senior Vice President, U.S. Programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The state of Texas remains singularly focused on restricting access to safe and legal abortion. If Texas politicians really had women’s best interests at heart, they’d pass laws that provide greater access to health care, including family planning and other essential reproductive health care.”

The Texas restrictions are part of SB8, a sweeping anti-abortion bill enacted last summer. SB8 is part of a coordinated national strategy by anti-abortion politicians, who’ve passed over 400 restrictions on abortion at the state level, and 22 in Texas alone, since 2010. Whole Woman’s Health and other reproductive health providers already challenged a separate measure in SB8 banning the safest and most common method of ending a pregnancy after approximately 15 weeks in Texas. A federal court permanently blocked that measure in November of 2017, and Texas has appealed the decision.

This lawsuit is the latest in a series of challenges brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project on behalf of lead plaintiff Whole Woman’s Health against the state.

This case began just four days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, when the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) finalized regulations which mandated burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue for all women who have a miscarriage management procedure, ectopic pregnancy surgery, or an abortion—regardless of her personal wishes or beliefs.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a challenge to the regulations in December 2016 and a district court blocked them from taking effect in January of 2017. Despite the decision, the Texas legislature doubled down on the regulations, and Governor Greg Abbott signed SB8 into law in June 2017, just six months later.

Most recently, in June 2018, a coalition of Texas health care providers and abortion funds – led by the Whole Woman’s Health Alliance – challenged dozens of medically unnecessary abortion restrictions currently enforced by the state, including a telemedicine abortion ban, a 24-hour mandatory delay, a forced ultrasound law, and a parental consent requirement.

The lawsuit was filed by Molly Duane, Autumn Katz, and Caroline Sacerdote of the Center for Reproductive Rights, David Brown, Stephanie Toti, Juanluis Rodriguez, and Dipti Singh of the Lawyering Project, Austin attorney Patrick O’Connell, and J. Alexander Lawrence of the law firm Morrison & Foerster in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health, Brookside Women’s Health Center and Austin Women’s Health Center, Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, and several individual physicians.