Planned Parenthood Sues Texas Over Anti-Choice Bill SB 8

Health providers hope to strike down second-trimester abortion ban

Photo by John Anderson

They promised a fight and now they’re delivering.

Planned Parenthood, a duo of Austin attorneys, and the Center for Reproductive Rights – the legal team that won Texas women a major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court last summer – are taking the state to court once again, this time to challenge the latest attack on abortion rights.

The much anticipated lawsuit, filed in Austin-based federal district court this morning on behalf of a handful of Texas health care providers, including Whole Woman's Health, challenges a dangerous provision found in omnibus Senate Bill 8, anti-choice legislation signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this summer. The rule, slipped in as a House amendment in the eleventh hour, bans D&E, effectively outlawing the safest and most common method of second trimester abortion (as few as 12 weeks of pregnancy). The suit argues the D&E ban "imposes an undue burden on women" and violates patients’ right to "bodily integrity" because it would require them to accept "unnecessary, invasive, and potentially painful medical procedures, in order to access their constitutional right to abortion."

Health providers warned the Legislature the ban could place women’s health in serious jeopardy, but that didn’t stop them or Abbott from greenlighting the measure. The non-partisan American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has deemed the restrictions “unacceptable” and “legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients.” The full law, which also includes a measure forcing women to cremate or bury fetal tissue after an abortion, is slated to take effect Sept. 1.

“This dangerous law puts medical decisions in the hands of politicians rather than doctors, threatening women’s safety and punishing physicians for using their best medical judgement,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “This is yet another attempt by politicians to ban abortion step by step and method by method, regardless of how many women they hurt. For too many women today, the legal right to abortion does not translate into access, especially for young people, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes.”

Conservative legislators have renewed their attacks on abortion rights with a handful of anti-choice bills this special session. SB 8 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, which would ban abortion from insurance coverage, is set for a Senate Business and Commerce Committee hearing this Saturday at 9am. Proposals to curb all government contracts with abortion affiliates (SB 4 by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown) and increase abortion reporting requirements (SB 10 by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels) will be heard by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Friday at 8am.

The latest Texas reproductive rights suit comes just over a year after CRR and Whole Woman’s Health successfully defeated two major parts of omnibus HB 2, a law meant to shut down abortion clinics. The SCOTUS ruling ensured states must show actual evidence of a public health benefit when passing abortion restrictions. Judging by the bills passed and proposed this legislative regular session and beyond, Texas politicians – scrapping the supposed health benefit argument – will have a difficult time scrambling to find even a shred of that evidence.

To read a copy of the legal filing, click here.

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