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Federal District Court Blocks Unconstitutional Texas Abortion Restrictions

Center for Reproductive Rights challenging state regulations designed to shame women and restrict abortion access

(RELEASE) A federal district court today blocked state regulations forcing 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.

The decision acknowledges that these regulations serve no legitimate medical purpose, while imposing new burdens on women and their health care providers. The regulations are prevented from taking effect while the litigation continues.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which sued the state of Texas in December, will now seek an order from the court striking down the regulations for good.

The restrictions were finalized in December over the objections of women’s health organizations and the medical community. At a two-day hearing earlier this month, the Center presented extensive testimony demonstrating that these regulations will create substantial uncertainty, violate women’s privacy, impose the State’s ideology on women, discourage women from seeking medical care, and threaten loss of access to healthcare services while potentially increasing their cost – all while doing nothing to improve the health and safety of Texas women.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today’s ruling acknowledges that these regulations do nothing to protect public health while imposing new burdens and uncertainty on health care providers and the diverse communities they serve.

“This law is unnecessary, unconstitutionally vague, and manifestly insulting to women.

“Our Constitution protects a woman’s fundamental right to access reproductive health care without needless barriers, and we will continue fighting for decisions like this wherever politicians choose to ignore that right.”

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Said Amy Hagstrom-Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, lead plaintiff in the case:

“Anti-abortion attacks cannot and will not slow us down. It is so important that our resiliency continues to blaze a path so that people in all communities are inspired to stand up and continue to fight back against political interference that attempts to regulate our lives.

We will not back down and we are thrilled that, yet again today, Whole Woman’s Health brought victory for Texans.”

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Litigation Details

The lawsuit demands that the state halt implementation of regulations finalized in December 2016 by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). The final rules disregard widespread objection from medical organizations, legal experts and others who argue that these unconstitutional new restrictions offer no public health or safety benefit.

The regulations – first proposed just four days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision in June – are in direct defiance of the high court’s ruling, which held that restrictions on legal abortion cannot impose burdens on a woman’s right to access abortion care without providing any legitimate, medical benefit.

Last July, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state of Louisiana to block a similar regulation, which is currently on hold while litigation continues. A third such restriction, in Indiana, has been blocked by court order amid litigation brought by Planned Parenthood.

These regulations are part of an ongoing attack across the country to restrict access to legal abortion through unnecessary regulations that endanger women’s health and safety. State legislators have passed more than 330 new restrictions on abortion access in the last five years alone.

The lawsuit was filed by David Brown, Stephanie Toti and Molly Duane of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Austin attorney Patrick O’Connell of the law firm, 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, Reproductive Services and Dr. Lendol Davis.

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