NEW ORLEANS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A Texas law outlawing an abortion method commonly used to end second-trimester pregnancies was upheld Wednesday, August 18, by a federal appeals court in New Orleans.
The 2017 law in question has never been enforced.
It seeks to prohibit the use of forceps to remove a fetus from the womb — what supporters of the law call a “dismemberment abortion” — without first using an injected drug or a suction procedure to ensure the fetus is dead.
Abortion rights advocates argued that the law, known as SB8 in court records, effectively outlaws what is often the safest method of abortion for women in the second trimester of pregnancy — a procedure medically known as dilation and evacuation.
They also argued that fetuses cannot feel pain during the gestation period affected by the law, and that one alternative outlined by the state, the use of suction to remove a fetus, also results in dismemberment.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of the law last year. But Texas sought, and was granted a re-hearing by the full court.
A majority among the 14 appellate judges who heard arguments in January (three of the court’s 17 active judges were recused) sided with Texas.
The opinion, by judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Don Willett, said “the record shows that doctors can safely perform D&Es and comply with SB8 using methods that are already in widespread use.”
Concurring in the result were judges Priscilla Owen, Edith Jones, Jerry Smith, Catharina Haynes, James Ho, Kurt Engelhardt and Cory Wilson.
Judge James Dennis wrote a dissent on behalf of himself and judges Carl Stewart and James Graves. A separate dissent was written by Judge Stephen Higginson, joined by Gregg Costa.
Dennis said the Texas law, “ under the guise of regulation, makes it a felony to perform the most common and safe abortion procedure employed during the second trimester.”
Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Elissa Graves released the following statement on the matter:
“Texas has the right to respect the life of unborn children, and it did so when it chose to strictly limit the gruesome procedure of dismemberment abortions. The 5th Circuit was on solid ground to reverse the lower court’s decision striking down the law, finding that ‘the district court committed numerous, reversible legal and factual errors.’ What the Texas law, SB 8, forbids is causing an unborn child’s death by ‘corporal dismemberment,’ in which the child dies ‘by bleeding to death as his or her body is torn apart.’ SB 8 prohibits the use of this grisly and unnecessary method before the death of the unborn child. The law is both humane and constitutional. As the 5th Circuit rightly found, the abortionists who filed this lawsuit ‘have utterly failed to carry their heavy burden of showing that SB8 imposes an undue burden on a large fraction of women in the relevant circumstances.”
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)