Federal District Court Continues to Block Unconstitutional Texas Abortion Restrictions

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(PRESS RELEASE) A federal district court today blocked a Texas measure requiring 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. The decision comes in a challenge to provisions of the sweeping anti-abortion bill S.B. 8 brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project on behalf of lead plaintiff Whole Woman’s Health and other Texas abortion providers.

The decision questions the potential benefits of the measure, while acknowledging that it imposes new burdens on women and their health care providers. It is now blocked from taking effect while the litigation continues.

Said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today’s ruling reaffirms that the courts will enforce the law and block burdensome restrictions on health care providers and the women they serve. The Center for Reproductive Rights has taken Texas to court before and won, and we’ll take Texas to court again to challenge any laws that rob women of their constitutionally-protected rights.”

Said Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, lead plaintiff in the case:

“Texans deserve better and today we got that. The legislature’s relentless attacks on access to reproductive health care prevent women from getting the care that they need. These attacks continue to be dangerous and wrong. Today’s decision is a strong affirmation of what we have always fought for—that women deserve to have the dignity when making health care decisions. Whole Woman’s Health is proud to once again be on the front lines of the fight for Texans. Today’s win is about what’s best for them and their families, free from political interference.”

The law struck down today is part of a coordinated national strategy by anti-abortion politicians, who’ve passed nearly 400 restrictions on abortion at the state level, and 22 in Texas alone, since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute. These restrictions fall hardest on people who already face barriers to health care, including young people, people of color, those who live in rural areas, and other marginalized communities.

Similar laws have been blocked or are not being enforced in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Indiana. The Center for Reproductive Rights sued the state of Louisiana to block a similar regulation, which is currently on hold while litigation continues. Restrictions in Arkansas and Indiana have also been blocked by court order amid litigation brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, respectively.

The decision is the latest in a series of challenges brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights against the state of Texas.

Just four days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) finalized regulations which mandated burial or cremation of embryonic and fetal tissue for all women who have a miscarriage management procedure, ectopic pregnancy surgery, or an abortion—regardless of her personal wishes or beliefs.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a challenge to the regulations in December 2016 and a district court blocked them from taking effect in January of 2017. Despite the decision, the Texas legislature doubled down on the regulations, and Governor Gregg Abbott signed S.B. 8, omnibus legislation containing similar requirements along with many other abortion restrictions, into law in June 2017, just six months later.

Most recently, in November, a federal struck down a separate provision of S.B. 8 banning the safest and most common method of ending a pregnancy after approximately 15 weeks in Texas, in another challenge brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health and other abortion providers in the state.

The lawsuit was filed by Molly Duane, Autumn Katz, and Caroline Sacerdote of the Center for Reproductive Rights, David Brown, Stephanie Toti, and Dipti Singh of the Lawyering Project, Austin attorney Patrick O’Connell, and J. Alexander Lawrence of the law firm Morrison &, Foerster in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on behalf of Whole Woman’s Health, Brookside Women’s Health Center and Austin Women’s Health Center, Alamo Women’s Reproductive Services, Reproductive Services, and several individual physicians.