Center Calls Upon Texas Governor to Veto Unconstitutional Abortion Restrictions

Measure would ban safe, proven method of abortion, also doubles down on regulations targeting women seeking abortion care, miscarriage management

(PRESS RELEASE) The Texas legislature today passed SB 8--an omnibus measure which contains multiple abortion restrictions, including an unconstitutional ban on a safe, medically proven method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester, with only a narrow exception for women facing immediate, serious medical risks. Reminiscent of 2013—when the Texas legislature held a special session to advance abortion restrictions which were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court--this provision was rammed through at the last minute despite outcry from medical experts and advocates alike.

The measure now heads to the desk of Governor Greg Abbott.  The Center for Reproductive Rights called upon Governor Abbott to veto the measure in a letter, noting that the measure is “unconstitutional, medically unsound, and…an unwarranted interference into private medical decisions.”  The letter also notes that Texas is also currently facing a $4.8 million dollar fee request from the Center for its court battle in Whole Woman’s Health.

Portions of the bill are slated to take effect as early as September 1, 2017. 

Notably, the House snuck in the abortion method ban via an amendment at the last minute under extreme pressure from Texas Right to Life.

 “From banning a safe method of abortion to doubling down on regulations already blocked by a federal court, Texas politicians continue their crusade against a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion,” said Amanda Allen, Senior State Legislative Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights

“Texas women deserve access to the health care that is best for them and their personal circumstances—not abortion restrictions pushed by extreme anti-abortion organizations.  The Center for Reproductive Rights vows to battle any unconstitutional measures in the courts until the rights of Texas women are respected and protected.”

Other provisions of the bill double down on regulations finalized by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in 2016 which essentially impose a funeral ritual on women who have a miscarriage management procedure, ectopic pregnancy surgery, or an abortion-- regardless of their patients’ personal wishes or beliefs.  The original regulations have never taken effect due to litigation brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

SB 8 is one of 50 measures the Texas legislature is considering this session which would restrict a woman’s access to reproductive health services.  SB 8 also bans a medical procedure already banned by federal law and duplicates federal law’s prohibitions on selling fetal tissue. The bill would also ban women who have ended their pregnancies from making the compassionate choice of donating fetal tissue. By banning fetal tissue donation just for women who have had abortions--and not other patients--the state is singling out those women to shame them and send a clear message that the state does not approve of their decision to have an abortion. 

Bans on a safe, proven method of abortion in the second trimester

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a similar measure into law earlier this year even though bans of this nature face strong opposition.  West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) vetoed a similar measure last year while similar laws in Louisiana, Kansas and Oklahoma have not taken effect due to challenges brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights.  The ACLU has also successfully blocked a similar ban in Alabama.

Texas regulations requiring burial or cremation of embryonic or fetal tissue

The regulations which force Texas health care providers to bury or cremate embryonic or fetal tissue from abortions, miscarriage or treatment for ectopic pregnancy–regardless of their patients’ personal wishes or beliefs-- were first proposed just four days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision in June.  The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a challenge to the regulations in December 2016 and a district court blocked the regulations from taking effect in late January.