After Texas’ GOP-led legislature enacted harsh abortion restrictions over the summer, several women’s health advocates joined forces to challenge the new law in court. That trial begins on Monday. A federal judge will hear testimony from both sides that’s expected to stretch on for two days.
The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a Texas law firm. The groups are hoping the court will block several provisions of Texas’ new abortion law, House Bill 2, which rose to national prominence after state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) filibustered it for 11 hours straight. Davis was ultimately unsuccessful in blocking the law; it was approved in July and is set to take full effect at the end of this month.
Specifically, the lawsuit concerns the portions of HB 2 that will require abortion clinics to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals — a medically unnecessary requirement that has been blocked from taking effect in other states — and that will force doctors to adhere to an outdated protocol for administering the abortion pill. The groups challenging the law are planning to call five witnesses, provide written testimony from three medical experts, and present concrete data to make the case that these provisions won’t actually do anything to improve women’s health and safety.
According to a recent study from the University of Texas, the new restrictions under HB 2 will force more than one third of the state’s abortion clinics to close, while the ones that manage to stay open will have to “severely” cut back their services. The researchers estimate that decreased access to abortion clinics will ultimately result in about 22,286 Texas women left unable to legally terminate a pregnancy. Many of those women may end up seeking out illegal and unsafe abortion care across the border in Mexico.
“The devastating and severe consequences this law would have on Texas women couldn’t be clearer,” Janet Crepps, the lead attorney on the case for the Center for Reproductive Rights, noted in a statement. “We are confident that the court will continue to uphold the constitutional protections of women’s reproductive rights that have been in place for nearly four decades and see these provisions for what they truly are: underhanded attempts to choke off access to essential health care.”
That may be an overly optimistic view of the challenge ahead, however. The federal court that’s responsible for determining whether HB 2 is constitutional has an extremely conservative record, and has agreed to restrict reproductive rights before.
Nonetheless, women’s health advocates haven’t given up the fight against HB 2. Planned Parenthood is also asking its supporters to help push back against the new abortion clinic regulations by submitting public comments to the state’s health department. The public comment period is open until October 27.