The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider Texas’ ban on fetal dismemberment, reports the Texas Tribune.
In 2017, Texas legislators passed Senate Bill 8, which prohibited doctors from performing abortions via “dilation and evacuation”–grasping and extracting fetal tissue with surgical instruments. After a federal judge blocked the measure, Texas sought to reinstate the bill before the Fifth Circuit Court.
Justices on the court heard arguments from Texas attorneys and litigators from pro-abortion groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood. Texas assistant solicitor general Heather Gebelin Hacker deemed dilation and evacuation a “barbaric” procedure. “It’s illegal to kill an animal that way in Texas, we wouldn’t execute a murderer that way, and notably the abortion providers don’t tell women that that’s what the procedure entails,” Hacker stated.
Hacker noted that less harmful abortion methods, such as potassium chloride injections, have a proven safety record and are currently available at abortion clinics. Thus, Texas’ ban on fetal dismemberment would not affect abortion access in the state.
Center for Reproductive Rights counsel Janet Crepps, meanwhile, responded that the ban was “invasive” and “medically unnecessary,” and that potassium chloride injections increase patients’ risk for complications. “Just the idea the state thinks that’s what’s within its power is contrary to the whole idea that women have a right to autonomy, dignity,” Crepps added.
Judges on the Fifth Circuit Court asked litigators to interpret Alabama’s dilation and evacuation ban, which was struck down by the Eleventh circuit Court of Appeals. The justices also sought clarification on potassium chloride injections.
Whole Woman’s Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller told reporters after the hearing that alternative abortion methods, such as injections, are “absolutely not the standard of care.” Referring to Alabama’s failed dilation and evacuation law, Miller stated, “I really lean on the fact that a [dilation and evacuation] ban hasn’t withstood these kind of proceedings to date.”
Emily Horne, a senior legislative associate for Texas Right to Life, expressed a different view. “It comes down to we’re really talking about a modest restriction on a very brutal abortion procedure while the child is alive,” she said.
Observers expect the court to issue its ruling in the next few months.
In spontaneous remarks to thousands of listeners at the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned abortion by comparing the practice to a targeted assassination.
“Is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?” the Pope asked. “You cannot, it is not right to kill a human being, regardless of how small it is, to solve a problem. [Abortion] is like hiring a hit man to solve a problem,” he stated.
Conservative Catholics had criticized the Pope for his reticence on abortion and other controversial topics. Observers considered Pope Francis’ latest pro-life remarks to be “some of his toughest to date.”
The Pope delivered his address at St. Peter’s Square during his weekly general audience, an occasion which attracted tens of thousands of spectators. Many in the crowd responded favorably to Pope Francis’ statements on abortion.
“I ask you: Is it right to ‘take out’ a human life to solve a problem? What do you think? Is it right? Is it right or not?” he asked. “No,” shouted the crowd.
“[H]ow can an act that suppresses an innocent and helpless life that is germinating be therapeutic, civilized or even simply human?” the Pope continued.
Catholic doctrine holds that life begins at conception and terminates at natural death. In previous interviews with news agencies, the Pope had focused his remarks on social issues such as inequality and immigration, stating that the Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with the debate surrounding abortion and traditional marriage. He had never questioned the Church’s teaching on abortion, however, and his latest comments confirm his commitment to pro-life values.
Louisiana’s 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that abortion physicians must continue to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, reports The Hill.
Pro-abortion litigators had argued that the admitting privileges law imposed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, because the regulation would force abortion clinics in Louisiana to shut their doors. However, the 5th Circuit Court found “no evidence that any of the clinics will close as a result of the Act.”
Judges on the court concluded that only 30% of Louisiana women at most could expect to wait longer for abortions as a result of the regulation.
The 5th Circuit Court distinguished Louisiana’s admitting privileges law from an analogous Texas regulation which the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. The Supreme Court had used an “undue burden” test to determine that Texas’ law was constitutional.
In contrast, when the 5th Circuit Court applied the same test to Louisiana’s regulation, it found that the regulation “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”
Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals did not immediately respond to a request for comment from news agencies.
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed Missouri to enforce laws which restrict abortion, reports The Hill.
The court overturned a previous ruling which blocked the regulations. As a result, abortion doctors in Missouri must now maintain affiliations with local hospitals, and clinics must obtain ambulatory surgical center licenses.
In 2016, Planned Parenthood disputed the regulations in court, arguing that the restrictions served no purpose and unduly burdened women seeking abortions.
“Look no farther than Missouri to see what kind of harm courts can inflict on women’s rights and freedoms,” said Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president. “[J]udges on the 8th Circuit continue to re-write the books on abortion access. Today’s ruling threatens to eliminate abortion access at all but one health center in the state.”
Pro-life lobbyist Samuel Lee expressed a different view. Missouri’s abortion law does not jeopardize women’s access to healthcare, but in fact “protects the health and safety of women who are seeking abortions in Missouri without imposing an undue burden on them,” Lee explained.
Indeed, U.S. Circuit Judge Bobby Shepherd found that a lower court improperly struck down Missouri’s regulations. That court did not consider the potential benefits of the state’s hospital affiliation requirement, Shepherd wrote in the majority opinion for the 8th Circuit.
Shepherd condemned the lower-court judge for relying on “slight implication and vague conjecture.” The lower court should instead have based its decision on “adequate information and correct application of the relevant standard.”
Shepherd’s ruling provides precedent for further restrictions on abortion. As the 8th Circuit Court’s decision demonstrates, abortion rights litigators may fail to mount a sound legal counterattack to abortion limits.
Missouri officials have forced a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Kansas City to stop performing abortions, reports local NPR affiliate KCUR. The clinic attempted to renew its operating license before August 10, but state health officials could not conduct a complete inspection of the facility.
Emily Wales, Planned Parenthood’s general counsel, believes political motivations prompted the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to shutter the clinic. “It’s hard for me to imagine how this isn’t for purposes of delay,” Wales stated.
A partial state inspection of the abortion clinic revealed that the facility failed to meet state guidelines regarding patient care. Planned Parenthood Great Plains spokeswoman Emily Miller protests that the clinic should be able to “go above and beyond” such guidelines. “That’s the best way to serve our patients,” Miller explained.
Missouri health officials, however, retain considerable control over abortion providers in the state. For example, medication abortion providers must contract with back-up ob-gyn doctors who enjoy admitting privileges at a hospital close to the abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to block that regulation, but a federal judge dismissed the suit. Planned Parenthood had failed to show that Missouri women faced “a substantial burden” because of the regulation, the judged ruled.
Planned Parenthood’s midtown facility hopes to resume abortion procedures soon, and has hired a new abortion physician. However, the new provider lacks admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, so thanks to Missouri law, the clinic may not be able to perform abortions even if it secures a new license.
9/12/18 Update: Missouri officials now plan to renew the clinic’s license, but will require the facility to comply with additional regulations.
Republican candidate Kevin Cramer and his Democratic opponent, Heidi Heitkamp, continue to clash over abortion in North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race.
Heitkamp’s support for late-term abortion presents an easy target for Cramer, in a state where 56% of voters favor a late-term abortion ban.
Cramer recently launched a TV ad on the subject, reports The Atlantic. In a 30-second spot titled “Respecting Life,” Cramer’s pregnant daughter criticizes Heitkamp for her opposition to a late-term abortion ban in the Senate earlier this year. The ad features footage of Heitkamp celebrating with Democrat Chuck Schumer on the Senate floor after the bill failed.
“She looked like she was celebrating. Late-term abortion, can you imagine?” Cramer’s daughter asks as she places her hands on her pregnant belly.
Late-term abortion has remained at the center of North Dakota’s Senate race as Republicans have continued to highlight Heitkamp’s vacillating views on the issue. In 2012, during her first Senate contest, the Democrat stated that she opposed late-term abortion “except when necessary to save the life of the mother.” By 2015, however, she had voted to block a second-trimester abortion ban.
When John McCormack, a Weekly Standard reporter, asked Heitkamp about her evolving views, she refused to discuss the topic.
Heitkamp’s weaknesses offer hope for North Dakota Republicans, who helped Donald Trump to a 63% victory in the state in 2016. A victory for Cramer could increase Republicans’ Senate majority in November. Current polls put the contest within the margin of error: Inside Elections, a nonpartisan campaign analytics organization, has reclassified the race from “tossup” to “tilts Republican.”
President Trump plans to visit North Dakota later this week to fund-raise for Cramer. The White House had encouraged Cramer to abandon his House seat to run against Heitkamp–a political gamble which appears increasingly likely to pay off.