Texas Insists HB2 Promotes Women's Health in 5th Circuit Arguments

The final pre-Supreme Court skirmish over Texas' restrictive abortion legislation known as HB2 kicked off today in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The state, as it has throughout the fight over the law, stuck to the same bullshit.

"Texas adopted HB2 for the purpose of raising the standard of care for abortion patients," Jonathan Mitchell, Texas' solicitor general said.

No. That wasn't the reason Texas' conservative, anti-abortion legislators passed HB2. Whether one loves or hates HB2, this is a simple fact obvious to everyone in Texas at least as smart as a salamander -- or more honest than Texas' solicitor general.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, who authored a study of the initial effects of HB2, told Unfair Park in July that the law does nothing to make women safer. Dr. Hal Lawrence, the executive vice president and CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that the law is dangerous for women. The ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks does not make women safer. Nor does the requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The requirement that any clinic performing abortions be certified as an ambulatory surgical center -- which faces the stiffest challenge in the current legal fight -- does nothing but increase travel times and impose unnecessary costs.

The law was passed to limit the number of abortions performed in Texas. That's it.

Surprisingly, 5th Circuit Judge Catharina Haynes -- a George W. Bush appointee who has voted in Texas' favor in a previous HB2 case -- challenged Mitchell on the surgical center requirement's potential impact on the health of abortion seekers.

Citing the long drives that will be faced by women in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley should they seek abortions, Haynes raised the specter of women facing complications on empty stretches of Texas highways.

"It seems like we're going to have women going a long way and literally bleeding in the middle of nowhere," she said.

The state has argued that the presence of clinics just across the New Mexico border from El Paso means that women in El Paso do not face an undue burden from HB2, despite their facing a 550-mile drive to the closest Texas clinic that can provide an abortion. Haynes pointed out the fault in that argument.

"Why is Texas sort of fobbing off people onto a state that has, arguably, less restrictions?" she asked. "If these restrictions are so necessary, why send women across the border to [New Mexico]?"

Mitchell told the court that women have the freedom to travel to any clinic they choose.

Stephanie Toti, the lawyer for the plaintiff clinics in the case, told MSNBC Wednesday that clinics that lost the first HB2 case in the 5th Circuit, which challenged the admitting privilege requirements and new restrictions on medical abortion, have decided not to appeal. That means, should the circuit rule against the clinics in the current case, it would be the one to be appealed to the Supreme Court, likely because an adverse ruling would close more clinics than in the first case.

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