The Corner

The Texas Abortion Decision

The first legal battle over Texas’s omnibus abortion bill has just been wrapped up, with results that that give Texas pro-choice activists a partial victory, though only a short-term one. A district judge has blocked part of the bill, but pro-lifers aren’t giving up — the war is far from over.

The law in question seeks to implement a collection of pro-life policy goals: It bans abortions after 20 weeks unless the fetus is nonviable or the mother’s health is at risk, requires that abortions take place in clinics that meet ambulatory surgical centers’ standards, and requires that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they work. It also mandates that the administration of drugs to perform medical abortions follows the FDA protocol, which requires three visits to the clinic to take the medication necessary to terminate and then expel the fetus.

The fight over this law drew national attention this summer when Wendy Davis, a Democratic state senator, filibustered the bill for 13 hours. Though the legislation eventually passed, her filibuster temporarily blocked it in the upper chamber and made her a national hero for pro-choice activists, giving her a platform to enter the 2014 gubernatorial race.

U.S. district judge Lee Yeakel, a George W. Bush appointee, issued injunctions against the two parts of the omnibus bill that came before his court: the provision requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a relatively nearby hospital, and the requirement that medical abortions follow FDA protocols even if the life of the mother is in jeopardy (medical abortions must still follow FDA protocols in Texas when the mother’s life isn’t in danger). 

“I think it’s a shame that we have activist judges who are trying to legislate from their bench instead of letting Texas decide what’s best for us,” says Representative Jonathan Stickland, a member of the state house who was a vocal advocate for the pro-life bill. He adds that he expects a victory on appeal.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, one of the defendants in the case, has said he will try to take the fight over this law to the Supreme Court; he filed a notice to appeal the decision shortly after it was released. The case will first go to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where pro-life activists are optimistic about the legislation’s prospects – the court tends to lean conservative in its decisions. 

“If this goes to the Fifth Circuit, we’re pleased,” says Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum, a state branch of the national social-conservative group of the same name. Her group lobbied for the law’s passage and filed an amicus brief in its favor. “We have confidence that the Fifth Circuit judges are more into interpreting not just the law but the Constitution,” she continues, “and I think that that bodes very well for our omnibus bill.”

The provision banning most abortions after 20 weeks will still go into effect this week. Pro-choice advocates haven’t challenged the 20-week ban in court and aren’t expected to do so. And this lawsuit didn’t challenge the requirement that abortions be performed in hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers, as that regulation doesn’t kick in until next year (pro-choicers have indicated that they’ll challenge it closer to its implementation date).

Texas lieutenant governor David Dewhurst shaply criticized the decision, saying, “I am saddened by the court’s decision to overturn certain elements of HB2 which were written to protect the health of Texas women. It is disturbing to know that the abortion industry is celebrating a so-called victory that actually reduces the standard of care for the women from whom they profit.”

Senator Ted Cruz, the former solicitor general of the Lone Star State, made the following statement: “Texas passed commonsense legislation to protect the health of women and their unborn children. This law is constitutional and consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent protecting the life and health of the mother and child. I hope the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold Texas’s reasonable law.”

Most Popular

Film & TV

A Sad Finale

Spoilers Ahead. Look, I share David’s love of Game of Thrones. But I thought the finale was largely a bust, for failings David mostly acknowledges in passing (but does not allow to dampen his ardor). The problems with the finale were largely the problems of this entire season. Characters that had been ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Great Misdirection

The House Democrats are frustrated, very frustrated. They’ve gotten themselves entangled in procedural disputes with the Trump administration that no one particularly cares about and that might be litigated for a very long time. A Washington Post report over the weekend spelled out how stymied Democrats ... Read More
World

Australia’s Voters Reject Leftist Ideas

Hell hath no fury greater than left-wingers who lose an election in a surprise upset. Think Brexit in 2016. Think Trump’s victory the same year. Now add Australia. Conservative prime minister Scott Morrison shocked pollsters and pundits alike with his victory on Saturday, and the reaction has been brutal ... Read More
NR Webathon

We’ve Had Bill Barr’s Back

One of the more dismaying features of the national political debate lately is how casually and cynically Attorney General Bill Barr has been smeared. He is routinely compared to Roy Cohn on a cable-TV program that prides itself on assembling the most thoughtful and plugged-in political analysts and ... Read More
Film & TV

Game of Thrones: A Father’s Legacy Endures

Warning! If you don't want to read any spoilers from last night's series finale of Game of Thrones, stop reading. Right now. There is a lot to unpack about the Thrones finale, and I fully understand many of the criticisms I read on Twitter and elsewhere. Yes, the show was compressed. Yes, there were moments ... Read More