The Slatest

Federal Judge Permanently Blocks New Texas Abortion Law as Unconstitutional

An abortion rights activist holds placards outside of the US Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. 


A federal judge, on Wednesday, overturned a Texas ban on the most common form of second-trimester abortion, ruling the prohibition is unconstitutional and places an “undue burden” on women seeking the procedure. The Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 8 in May and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law shortly after. Abortion providers filed suit against the state and Judge Lee Yeakel of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas issued a temporary injunction in August blocking the law from going into effect until the courts could rule on its constitutionality.

The Texas law, the New York Times notes, “would require doctors to stop the fetus’s heart before performing a dilation-and-evacuation abortion, except in a medical emergency. D&E abortions, as they are known, involve dilating the woman’s cervix and removing the fetus in pieces. This is the safest method available in the second trimester, but opponents say the procedure, which they often refer to as ‘dismemberment abortion,’ is barbaric.”

Judge Yeakel—a George W. Bush appointee—ruled again on Wednesday, this time permanently barring the law from being enforced. “[Supreme Court precedent leads] inescapably to the conclusion that the state’s legitimate interest in fetal life does not allow the imposition of an additional medical procedure on the standard D&E abortion — a procedure not driven by medical necessity,” Judge Yeakel wrote. “Here the state’s interest must give way to the woman’s right.”

“The ruling comes a year after the Supreme Court struck down a set of previous abortion restrictions in Texas and a decade after the Supreme Court upheld a ban on so-called partial birth abortions, another second trimester procedure,” according to Politico. “Texas said it will appeal the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has typically upheld the state’s previous attempts to restrict abortion.”

“We will defend Senate Bill 8 all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said after the decision.