Federal judge rules Texas abortion law is unconstitutional

A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a Texas law aimed at restricting second-trimester abortions by requiring doctors to stop the heart of a fetus before performing the procedure. Pictured, pro-abortion and anti-abortion supporters square off during protests outside of the Supreme Court as oral arguments are heard in the Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt case at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on March 2, 2016. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Nov. 23 (UPI) — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that a Texas law placing requirements on the performance of dilation-and-evacuation abortions, one of the most common forms of the procedure, is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel said in his ruling that the law, which would have required doctors to stop the heart of a fetus before performing the procedure, does not properly prioritize the health of the woman.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton said he has already started an appeal of the decision, and is prepared to take it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Dilation-and-evacuation abortions are considered the safest option for women in the second trimester of pregnancy, but state attorneys characterized the procedure as “barbaric,” referring to it as “dismemberment abortion.”

Yeakel said the law places an undue burden on women because stopping the heart of a fetus using one of three methods recommended under the law — injecting one of two chemicals into the woman or fetus, or cutting the umbilical cord — may pose added danger to the woman.

“The Act establishes a point of fetal demise at a time before fetal viability,” Yeakel wrote. “In so doing, the Act does not further the health of the woman before the fetus is viable.”

While state attorneys said the procedures would be easy for professionals to learn, plaintiffs suing to prevent the law from going into effect said the procedures may cause additional pain for the woman and may not work. Attempting to cut the umbilical cord also may not be possible because it is not always easily reached.

Yeakel rejected the state’s arguments for insisting on fetal death because they place an undue burden on women. The judge also noted the law would force doctors to perform a medical procedure that may be against their best judgement.

Paxton said in a statement he would immediately appeal the decision on a law designed to ensure “more humane treatment of unborn children.”

“Through extraordinary evidence and expert witness testimony, we established that Senate Bill 8 is lawful, treats the unborn with dignity and respect, and protects the integrity of the medical profession,” Paxton said. “We will defend Senate Bill 8 all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.”


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