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Texas Court Strikes Down Ban on Safest, Most Common Method of Abortion After Approximately 15 Weeks

(Press Release) Today, a federal district court judge struck down a Texas measure banning the safest and most common method of ending a pregnancy after approximately 15 weeks. The decision comes in a challenge to provisions of S.B. 8, brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health, Planned Parenthood, and other reproductive health care providers in the state. Every court that has looked at a ban like this one has blocked it, including in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma, and now Texas.

“Today, facts and the rule of law once again prevailed over an unrelenting and coordinated political agenda against American women’s health and well-being,” said Nancy Northup president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The court’s decision once again makes clear that politicians cannot force their way into private medical decisions that should stay between patients and physicians. Access to vital reproductive health services should not depend on a woman’s zip code, and today’s decision ensures Texas women can continue to seek the care they need and deserve.”

“This is a huge win for Texas women and families,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health. “I knew that after our historic Whole Woman’s Health decision last year, we would have to continue to fight. The pattern of incessant and dangerous attacks on women’s healthcare has not stopped. That is why we are here, and why we are thrilled to prevail. Today the court ruled on the right side of medicine and was just another step in ensuring that all Texans are given the dignity and respect they deserve to make their own healthcare decisions."

“Today’s decision affirms what we already know -- that politics should never tie the hands of doctors or bar women from safe medical care. Lawmakers in Texas have been trying for years to ban abortion by any means necessary. This law is the same underhanded agenda in a different package, and it’s women who get hurt in the process. We’re grateful today’s decision will safeguard our patients access to safe, legal abortion in Texas and every person’s right to make their own pregnancy decisions,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The law struck down today is part of a coordinated national strategy by anti-abortion politicians, who’ve passed nearly 400 restrictions on abortion at the state level, and 22 in Texas alone, since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute.  These restrictions fall hardest on people who already face barriers to health care, including young people, people of color, those who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes.

Major mainstream medical experts like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose this type of ban, noting “these restrictions represent legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients. This is unacceptable.” Existing restrictions in Texas have forced many women to go to tremendous lengths to access abortion, pushing procedures later in pregnancy and putting their health at risk. Research shows there was a 27 percent increase in second trimester abortions in Texas after the passage of the HB2 abortion restrictions in 2013. 

Just last year, the Supreme Court struck down another law passed by the Texas legislature to curtail access to abortion in the state. In its Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt decision, the Court held that abortion restrictions must clear a very high constitutional bar, and that laws designed to cut off abortion access or burden women are unconstitutional and must be struck down.

The challenge to Texas’ method ban was filed by Janet Crepps and Molly Duane of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Melissa Cohen of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, 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, Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services, Planned Parenthood South Texas Surgical Center, Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, Southwestern Women’s Surgery Center, Reproductive Services, and several individual physicians.