A federal trial over Texas’ new abortion law started Thursday in Austin.
It’s over Senate Bill 8, which lawmakers passed in the 85th legislative session. The measure being challenged bans “dismemberment abortions” and abortion providers argue it would effectively prevent them from performing dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions. This is a procedure that doctors use on second-trimester pregnancies, which is typically after 15 weeks.
Whole Woman’s Health filed a lawsuit against the state and a federal judge issued a temporary injunction in August blocking the law from going into effect until late November. During the trial, both parties will present their case and the judge will rule later this month.
“At stake here is Texan women’s access to safe abortion procedures,” Amy Hagstrom-Miller, founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, said. “SB8 is nothing less than an abortion ban and what’s at stake here is really Texas women’s access to the higher standard of care.”
So far, three doctors have provided expert testimony in the trial. Dr. Bhavik Kumar, medical director at Whole Woman’s Health, told the court the state’s requirement under the law for fetal demise, or for a death of a fetus in the uterus, prior to the D&E abortion would be an added step without any benefit to the patient.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights in the United States, there are eight states with laws like this, including Texas. Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas have laws that are currently getting challenged in either state or federal court.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also showed up in court mid-afternoon and issued a brief statement to reporters afterwards.
“Live dismemberment is every bit as brutal, gruesome and inhumane as a partial birth abortion, something that Congress and the Supreme Court agree should be banned in this country,” Paxton said.
The attorney general said defending this law “recognizes unborn children should at least have the same rights in Texas as prisoners being executed for the most heinous crimes and animals who would never be torn alive.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood are serving as co-counsel to Whole Woman’s Health in the trial.
“Over one in three women will have an abortion at some point in their lifetime,” Hagstrom-Miller said. “Texas women deserve access to the highest medical care just like women everywhere.”
The trial is scheduled to take place in downtown Austin until Nov. 8.