Nightmare Federal Appeals Court Panel To Hear Texas Abortion Case Today


During the protests against Texas' abortion restrictions this summer, one activist put their message on a coat hangar

CREDIT: Eric Gay / AP

Just over two months ago, three Bush-appointed judges issued a temporary order reinstating a Texas law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The very next day, abortion clinics across the state had to turn hundreds of women away because they could not comply with this law.

On Monday, a slightly different panel of the same appeals court will consider the law again, this time for a full hearing on the merits of the case. However, if you’re expecting a different outcome the second time around, don’t. The new panel is likely to show no more sympathy to reproductive choice than the panel that convened in October.

The October panel included George W. Bush appointees Jennifer Walker Elrod and Catharina Haynes, both of whom are considered staunch conservatives and both of whom voted to reinstate the Texas law. Both Elrod and Haynes are back to reconsider the law Monday — and there’s absolutely no reason to think their views have changed in the last several weeks. They will be joined by Judge Edith Jones, a fairly notorious judge who, among other things, is currently under investigation for allegedly claiming that African Americans and Hispanics are predisposed towards violence and crime.

Jones, whose served on the conservative United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit since 1985 and recently stepped down as its chief judge, also once voted that a man could be executed despite the fact that his lawyer slept through much of his trial. She reportedly advised workers claiming discrimination to β€œ[t]ake a better second job instead of bringing suit.” And she voted to toss a victim of sexual harassment out of court in a truly horrific case where the plaintiff’s co-workers grabbed her breasts and buttocks, hung used tampons from their lockers, and blasted her in the genitals with a high pressure hose. One of this woman’s co-workers told her β€œhe would cut off her breast and shove it down her throat,” and the harassment continued even after she complained to senior management. If it were up to Edith Jones, the courts would have allowed it to continue as well.

Most relevant to the Texas law she is considering Monday, Jones authored a concurring opinion in 2004 that can only be described as a memo to the Supreme Court urging them to eliminate the constitutional right to choose an abortion entirely. After summarizing a list of scientific and other claims which she believes to undermine the basis for Roe v. Wade, Jones’s opinion proclaims that “[o]ne may fervently hope that the Court will someday acknowledge such developments and re-evaluate Roe and Casey accordingly.”

The Texas case will give Jones another opportunity to tell her fellow conservatives on the Supreme Court why she believes that what’s left of Roe should be overruled.