Rather than picking off the Texas Legislature's anti-abortion measures one at a time, as reproductive rights groups in the state have seemingly been willing to do over the last decade, a six-pack of pro-choice organizations joined with an abortion provider Thursday to sue the state over a whole slate of its antiabortion laws.
The lawsuit, citing the Supreme Court's 2016 ruling against two of Texas' most stringent abortion restrictions, seeks to end the state's ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the requirement that all women seeking an abortion be given a sonogram before the procedure, and the 24-hour waiting period required between a woman's initial consultation with her doctor and the abortion procedure itself, among other restrictions.
“For years, Texas politicians have done everything in their power to push abortion out of reach for Texans,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the lead plaintiff in the case, said Thursday. “We went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2016 to defeat harmful abortion restrictions, and we are not done fighting so that every Texan can get the health care they need and deserve. All Texans, no matter who they are, where they live or how much they earn, should be able to make the health care decisions that are best for them and get the care they need with dignity.”
Like the laws struck down in 2016 — which required any doctor performing an abortion in the state to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and that all abortions be performed in hospital-like ambulatory surgical centers — the restrictions passed by legislators beginning with the 2011 legislative session have created an undue burden against women seeking abortions, according to the lawsuit. Requirements like sonograms and waiting periods, as well as limits on medication abortion, aren't in the medical best interests of patients, according to the plaintiffs. Instead, they've been implemented solely to reduce the number of abortions performed in the state.
“Pursuing an incremental strategy designed to chip away at abortion access, the state has layered restrictions on top of restrictions, steadily increasing the burdens faced by people seeking to end their pregnancies,” the lawsuit says. “Abortion patients and providers now face a dizzying array of medically unnecessary requirements that are difficult, time-consuming and costly to navigate — sometimes prohibitively so.”
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In a statement, Marc Rylander, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, insisted that the laws challenged by the suit have been put in place to protect women as they seek abortions.
“They are common-sense measures necessary to protect Texas women from unhygienic, unqualified clinics that put women’s lives and reproductive health at risk,” Rylander said. “It is ridiculous that these activists are so dedicated to their radical pro-abortion agenda that they would sacrifice the health or lives of Texas women to further it.”
According to medical professionals who perform abortions, Rylander's assertion is untrue. Abortions, according to providers, can easily be performed in an outpatient setting. Insisting that they be performed in a surgical environment only creates unnecessary alarm.
“For somebody who hasn’t had an abortion or maybe isn’t familiar with it, think about any other medical procedure, or even like a dentist for a teeth cleaning or something that’s routine, and imagine being asked to put on a hospital gown and undress completely and go into this surgical suite for a five- to 10-minute procedure,” Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion provider and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, told the Observer in 2016. “It’s a really different experience, if you can imagine what it’s like, just being there and having to trust somebody else. The environment changes your perception of what may or may not happen.”