(PRESS RELEASE) Texas Governor Gregg Abbott today signed SB 8--an omnibus measure which contains multiple abortion restrictions, including an unconstitutional ban on a safe, medically proven method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester, with only a narrow exception for women facing immediate, serious medical risks. Reminiscent of 2013—when the Texas legislature held a special session to advance abortion restrictions which were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt --this provision was rammed through at the last minute despite outcry from medical experts and advocates alike.
The Center for Reproductive Rights had called on Governor Abbott to veto the measure in a letter sent shortly after final passage, calling the measure “unconstitutional, medically unsound, and…an unwarranted interference into private medical decisions.” The letter also noted that Texas is currently facing a $4.8 million dollar fee request from the Center for its court battle in Whole Woman’s Health.
Portions of the bill are slated to take effect as early as September 1, 2017.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Texas politicians haven’t learned their lesson, continuing to pass sweeping restrictions which interfere with a woman’s right to safe, legal abortion.
“The Center for Reproductive Rights has long stood with Texas women to ensure their constitutional rights are respected and protected. We took Texas all the way to the Supreme Court last year and won--and will continue to challenge any laws which rob women of their rights and freedoms.”
Notably, the House snuck in the abortion method ban via an amendment at the last minute under extreme pressure from Texas Right to Life. Other provisions of the bill double down on regulations finalized by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in 2016 which essentially impose a funeral ritual on women who have a miscarriage management procedure, ectopic pregnancy surgery, or an abortion-- regardless of her personal wishes or beliefs. The original regulations have never taken effect due to litigation brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
SB 8 is one of 50 measures the Texas legislature considered this session which would restrict a woman’s access to reproductive health services. SB 8 also bans a medical procedure already banned by federal law and duplicates federal law’s prohibitions on selling fetal tissue. The bill would also ban women who have ended their pregnancies from making the compassionate choice of donating fetal tissue. By banning fetal tissue donation just for women who have had abortions--and not other patients--the state is singling out those women to shame them and send a clear message that the state does not approve of their decision to have an abortion.
Bans on a safe, proven method of abortion in the second trimester
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a similar measure into law earlier this year even though bans of this nature face strong opposition. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) vetoed a similar bill last year while virtually identical laws in Louisiana, Kansas and Oklahoma have not taken effect due to challenges brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The ACLU has also successfully blocked a similar ban in Alabama.
Texas regulations requiring burial or cremation of embryonic or fetal tissue
The regulations which force Texas health care providers to bury or cremate embryonic or fetal tissue from abortions, miscarriage or treatment for ectopic pregnancy–regardless of their patients’ personal wishes or beliefs-- were first proposed just four days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision in June. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a challenge to the regulations in December 2016 and a district court blocked the regulations from taking effect in late January.