A federal judge on Thursday temporarily blocked part of a Texas law that bans dilation-and-evacuation abortions in the second trimester. “While some pro-lifers may be tempted to despair at today’s ruling, this is the first step in a longer and consequential legal battle over this dynamic and historic legislation,” Texas Right to Life said in an Aug. 31 statement.
The group said the important question is “whether this type of procedure is something Texas has the right to prohibit,” not how it will affect women and the abortion industry, as the plaintiffs’ lawyers have said. The abortion rule in question bars “dismemberment abortions,” which use forceps and other instruments to remove the fetus from the womb, the Associated Press reports. Critics of the law say “dismemberment abortion” is not a medical term.
Texas Right to Life, however, defended the law. “The Dismemberment Abortion Ban outlaws a specific abortion procedure in which a living preborn child is killed by being torn limb from limb in utero,” the group said.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is a party to the lawsuit challenging the measure, says the procedure is the safest and most common way to perform an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel granted the temporary restraining order on the law Aug. 31, saying it was in the public interest to preserve the status quo and allow the parties to the case to put the constitutional questions on record “without subjecting plaintiffs or the public to any of the act’s potential harms.” The judge has set a Sept. 14 hearing on the case.
Texas Right to Life said the law is defensible under the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Gonzales v. Carhart, which says states have a “compelling interest in protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession and in protecting the life of the preborn child.” Courts have blocked similar laws in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
The abortion ban is part of Senate Bill 8, which was passed this year response to a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 2013 state law that helped close more than half of Texas’ abortion clinics. There are now about 20 abortion clinics in the state, compared to 41 in 2012.