So What The Hell Just Happened With That Texas Abortion Law?


Earlier this afternoon, Twitter was, uh, a-twitter with news that a judge had struck down that awful Texas law that Wendy Davis filibustered back in June. But it’s not all sunshine and roses and dancing in a field wearing adorable matching orange tee shirts; only part of the law was struck down, and the state of Texas has already filed an emergency appeal with the most whackadoodle court in America-land — the Fifth Circuit.

First, the good news: technically, “we” won. Judge Lee Yeakel — a George W Bush appointee — wrote in his ruling that,

The admitting-privileges provision of House Bill 2 does not bear a rational relationship to the legitimate right of the state in preserving and promoting fetal life or a woman’s health and, in any event, places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her

This is great! Good! Yay! High fiving is appropriate here!

Next, the meh news: the lawsuit that we “won” didn’t address the two other shitburgers aspect of HB2, and thus while Texas’ abortion clinics will remain open, the 20 week ban will go into effect tomorrow. This is extra cruel because less than 2% of abortions occur after 20 weeks, and those that do occur after 20 weeks are usually done due to serious complications like birth defects. No woman waltzes willy-nilly into an abortion clinic at 20 weeks and asks the doctor to just real quick pop the fetus out; the procedure at that point is painful and complicated and can have a long recovery process. Texas’s ban on medicinal abortions will also partially go into effect.

Rubber faced bozo Rick Perry, who has never had nor will ever have a viable uterus, had the following to say in response to Yeakel’s ruling,

Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently. We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.

But now, the shit news. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who will likely be State Senator Wendy Davis’s opponent during next year’s gubernatorial elections and who apparently has nothing better to do, has already filed a notice of appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

This is significant for a few reasons. First, the Fifth Circuit court is notoriously right wing nutty and hostile to abortion rights. In this handy ThinkProgress explainer from earlier this summer, Ian Millhiser details a few whacky things about the court that might make a pro-choice person pucker a little. In the past, the Court has sided with state governments that wish to force doctors to try to convince their patients not to get abortions, regardless of the doctor’s opinion as a practitioner of medicine. The Fifth Circuit is also responsible for that ruling that ordered a high school cheerleader to support her rapist from the sidelines, and then fined her.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the Fifth Circuit has proven they are capable of acting rationally in certain cases. After an injunction was placed on Mississippi’s 20-week-ban, the state filed an emergency appeal to the Fifth Circuit in an attempt to get the Court to lift the injunction, but the state’s request was denied.

Twenty week bans have been struck down in other states; Arizona’s was struck down earlier this year by the Ninth Circuit. But this is a different ballgame, and there’s a governorship on the line and no legal expense must be spared in appeasing Texas’ foaming right wing with archaic anti-woman policies that will ultimately saddle the state with greater public health costs and women with greater financial burdens, whether they like it or not. And thus the great pro-life pro-freedom fiscal conservative mental gymnastics meet continues apace.


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