Trial Concludes in Challenge to Texas Abortion Method Ban

(PRESS RELEASE) A trial concluded yesterday in a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood, on behalf of lead plaintiff Whole Woman’s Health, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, and other providers. The case challenges a Texas measure banning the safest and most common method of ending a pregnancy after approximately 15 weeks. A temporary restraining order remains in place until November 22, while the court considers the plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction against the medically unnecessary measure.

In their testimonies, physician after physician underscored the safety of D&E procedures and how the implementation of SB8 would put women’s health at risk by banning the safest and most common method of abortion after 15 weeks. Major medical experts, including the highly respected American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose these types of bans, writing “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.”

The ban under SB8 is part of a coordinated national strategy by anti-abortion politicians, who have passed nearly 400 restrictions on abortion at the state level -- including 22 restrictions on abortion in Texas alone -- since 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute. 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.

Restrictions to abortion are hardest on people who already face barriers to health care -- including people of color, immigrants, young people, those in rural areas, and people with low-incomes. As demonstrated in the recent Jane Doe case – where a young undocumented woman in Texas was systematically blocked from accessing an abortion for more than a month, pushing her past 15 weeks – politicians’ efforts to chip away at women’s constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion have reached a frightening new height. While justice finally prevailed for Jane Doe, there are countless other young women of color facing barriers to accessing care.

“This ban would tie the hands of doctors and put their patients’ health at risk. It cannot and must not stand,” said Sarah Wheat, Chief External Affairs Officer, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas. “We have already seen more patients forced to delay procedures because of past restrictions like HB2. Now politicians are trying to ban one of the safest and most common methods of abortion. It’s clear this is just another attempt to ban abortion law by law and method by method.”

“SB8 pits Texas politician’s agenda against women’s safety and well-being, but facts, evidence and the rule of law are on our side,” said Lourdes Rivera, senior vice president for U.S. programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The U.S. Supreme Court has held over and over that women have a fundamental right to access safe, legal abortion, and last year’s historic Whole Woman’s Health decision affirmed that the constitution provides strong protections against interference from legislators who put politics above health and safety. We are counting on the court to recognize what every other court to examine a similar ban has acknowledged: unduly burdensome restrictions and attempts to ban abortion method by method are an attack on women’s fundamental rights and must be struck down.”

“Let’s be clear, this case is about an abortion ban-- plain and simple. The state tried to make a case that the restrictions they put forward are no big deal for women and providers to comply with; but, the state misses the point completely. These restrictions have no medical basis nor added health benefit whatsoever, and are yet another attempt to politically interfere with our healthcare decisions ” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO and founder of Whole Woman’s Health. “Texans deserve better, and Whole Woman’s Health, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood put a strong case forward based in scientific evidence and medical facts, illustrating how this ban will keep our physicians from being able to provide the best medicine for the Texans they care for. We are prepared to bring this challenge all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to get the relief Texans deserve.”

Every court to look at a ban like this one has blocked it, including in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed a person’s fundamental right to access safe, legal abortion over and over. Just last year the Court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in a challenge brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, made clear 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.