AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas defended new anti-abortion measures again Thursday in court following a string of defeats over efforts to change the disposal of fetal remains, deny Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood and outlaw a commonly used abortion method.
The latest trial centers only on a new law Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed in June that bans a second-trimester abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Federal courts in at least four other states have blocked similar measures.
Abortion providers say the procedure is common and rarely results in complications. For Texas Republicans, the ban was the centerpiece of their response to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a sweeping anti-abortion law passed in 2013 that led to the closure of more than half the state’s abortion clinics.
“I am most concerned with the health of women in Texas. They will have limited access to abortion care,” said Dr. Mark Nichols, an Oregon obstetrician and a Planned Parenthood board member. He was the first witness to testify in what is expected to be a trial lasting several days in Austin.
Among those on hand in the courtroom was Republican state Rep. Stephanie Klick, who this spring authored the House amendment banning the procedure. Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, called it the “biggest pro-life victory” of the legislative session in Texas.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who is overseeing the trial, temporarily blocked the measure before it could take effect Sept. 1.
The new Texas law uses the non-medical term “dismemberment abortion” to describe a procedure in which forceps and other instruments are used to remove the fetus from the womb. In court papers filed this week, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote that “prohibiting this inhumane procedure does not impose any significant health risks or burdens on women” while citing alternative procedures that abortion providers say are less safe and reliable.
Federal courts this year have previously stopped Texas from mandating the burial or cremation of fetal remains and cutting off Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood. Other states have also tried denying Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group, but a three-judge federal panel in August ruled that Arkansas could do so.
Texas currently has around 20 abortion clinics, down from 41 in 2012.
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