US Appeals Court Upholds Texas Abortion Laws

[Content Note: War on agency; class warfare.]

A US appeals court of three Republican-appointed female judges has upheld the extreme abortion restrictions passed in Texas, passage of which Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate famously filibustered. The Fifth Circuit panel said the new rules don't jeopardize women's health or create an undue burden:
A panel of judges at the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and serve no medical purpose. After the lower court's ruling, the appeals court had allowed the restrictions to go into effect while it considered the case, which could ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The new law requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and places strict limits on doctors prescribing abortion-inducing pills. More regulations that are scheduled to begin later this year weren't part of the case.

In its opinion, the appeals court said the law "on its face does not impose an undue burden on the life and health of a woman."

...In passing the rules, Texas lawmakers argued they were protecting the health of women. But abortion-rights supporters called the measures an attempt to effectively ban abortion through overregulation.

Many abortion doctors do not have admitting privileges, and limiting when and where they may prescribe abortion-inducing pills discourages women from choosing that option, they argued.

Other aspects of the new rules, including a requirement that all procedures take place in a surgical facility, are set to begin in September, though they may also be challenged in court.

At least 19 clinics have shut down since the new law was approved and the 5th Circuit allowed the provisions on hospital-admitting privileges and abortion-inducing pills to take effect, leaving around 24 still open to serve a population of 26 million Texans. More closures could happen after the additional restrictions are in place.

In reversing the lower court's decision, the appeals panel said Thursday that the district court opinion erred in concluding the law "imposed an undue burden in a large fraction of the cases."

"The evidence presented to the district court demonstrates that if the admitting-privileges regulation burdens abortion access by diminishing the number of doctors who will perform abortions and requiring women to travel farther, the burden does not fall on the vast majority of Texas women seeking abortions," the appeals court found.
Andrea Grimes, who tweeted the Fifth Circuit panel ruling on #HB2, highlighted this passage regarding undue burden, and the supposed lack thereof:

screen cap of text reading: '...Texas only thirteen had abortion facilities before HB2 was to take effect. The Rio Grande Valley, moreover, has four counties, not twenty-four, and travel between those four counties and Corpus Cristi, where abortion services are still provided, takes less than three hours on Texas highways (distances up to 150 miles maximum and most far less).'

By law, abortion restrictions must not create an undue burden, which is why we are getting this tortured explanation of how driving 150 miles (each way, possibly multiple times) to get an abortion is not an "undue burden."

Which is manifest claptrap. According to this Guttmacher study (pdf), "Can't afford a baby now" was cited by 73% of women who terminated pregnancies as a reason for seeking an abortion.
In the qualitative sample, of women who stated that they could not afford to have a child now, the majority had children already. Financial difficulties included the absence of support from the father of either the current pregnancy or the woman's other children, anticipating not being able to continue working or to find work while pregnant or caring for a newborn, not having the resources to support a child whose conception was not planned and lacking health insurance.
And that study was done in 2004, several years before the beginning of the Great Recession.

If the most common reason that people seek abortions is for financial reasons, then by any reasonable definition it is an undue burden to expect them to: 1. Have a reliable car; 2. Be able to afford a costly trip (or trips) in that car; 3. Have the ability to take off at least one full day of work, and possibly more, without losing that job; 4. Be able to afford childcare for children they already have, unless they want to bring their children with them and drag them through a gauntlet of screaming protestors; 5. Raise the funds to be able to do all of this, in addition to paying out-of-pocket for the abortion, in time to meet the deadline for a legal abortion at the nearest clinic.

The entire goal of these restrictions is to create an undue burden.

And I don't believe for a moment that this panel of judges could not see through the thin veneer of "women's health" plastered over these deliberately designed burdensome restrictions. They are not stupid; they are complicit.

Next stop: Supreme Court.

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