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NEW YORK, April 19 2018 – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman led a coalition of 16 Attorneys General in filing an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Whole Woman’s Health v. Paxton, challenging a Texas state law that would essentially ban the safest and most common method of second-trimester abortion.
“The Constitution protects a woman’s right to access safe and effective abortion services,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Yet across the country, we’re seeing a proliferation of laws that seek to eliminate safe, medically-accepted methods of abortion and relegate women to risky, invasive, and medically unnecessary procedures. We will not stand by while women’s health and constitutional rights are jeopardized by extremist laws.”
Click here to read the full brief, which was led by Attorney General Schneiderman and joined by the Attorneys General of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
Texas’s new statute imposes civil and criminal penalties on doctors who perform the standard dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, which is the safest and most common method of second-trimester abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The law would require doctors to either perform the abortion using a suction procedure or alter the standard D&E procedure by stopping the fetal heartbeat first using one or more of the following methods: digoxin injection, potassium chloride injection, and umbilical cord transection. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Paxton, several clinics and individual physicians challenged the statute, arguing that each of Texas’s proposed alternative procedures is either unavailable, experimental, or ineffective, and each unnecessarily increases the medical risks of an otherwise routine procedure.
After a five-day bench trial, the federal district court concluded that suction abortions cannot be performed during the later stages of the second trimester, and that Texas’s three proposed alterations to standard D&E are experimental and risky, difficult to perform, and potentially ineffective. Accordingly, the district court held that the law imposes an undue burden on women’s constitutionally-protected abortion rights, and issued a permanent injunction preventing the law from taking effect. Texas appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The States’ amicus brief urges the court to affirm the district court’s decision.
The Attorneys General argue that under the Supreme Court’s controlling “undue burden” standard, an abortion regulation is unconstitutional when its benefits to a state interest are not sufficient to justify the law’s burdens on abortion access. Where, as here, an abortion regulation would in effect ban safe and legal second-trimester abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, no purported benefit is sufficient to justify the burden on access.
This amicus brief follows a number of steps Attorney General Schneiderman has taken to protect women’s reproductive rights, including leading briefs challenging a similar Arkansas law, federal efforts to block teen detainees seeking abortions, and attempts by “crisis pregnancy centers” to block a law that requires them to inform clients about their reproductive health care options. Attorney General Schneiderman has also filed suit to end the persistent harassment of patients and clients at women’s health clinics.