Monday, a panel of three judges in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of HB2, Texas’ Pro-Life law that took full effect in October. The arguments pertained to Planned Parenthood v. Abbott. Planned Parenthood’s angle against HB2 from the beginning has been that the law places an “undue burden” on abortionists, abortion facilities, and women seeking abortion. Sections of the law require that abortionists hold admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and that the dangerous RU-486 abortion drug be administered according to FDA procedure.
Although both requirements under scrutiny look out solely for the good of the woman – making them a boon to “women’s reproductive health” – Planned Parenthood has attempted to convince the court that such measures provide an undue burden to women seeking abortion. These claims have had little effect on the judges, who seem unimpressed with the exaggerated nature of the lawsuit and with Planned Parenthood’s request that the Fifth Circuit Court overlook the Supreme Court’s precedent establishing the meaning of “undue burden.”
Whether the lack of convenient access to abortion for some women in rural west Texas areas is, in fact, an unconstitutional “undue burden” to the so-called “right to abortion” is yet to be seen. The abortion giant argues that requiring abortionists to obtain admitting privileges and holding RU-486 administration to higher standards will force women to face unnecessary hardship in their pursuit of abortion. But Planned Parenthood may have jumped the gun in making such broad and overarching undue burden arguments. On Monday, the Fifth Circuit judges felt strongly that the law should have first been applied and then the effects could have been proven to the court for such bold and categorical accusations. Namely, Planned Parenthood would have to present the court with a sufficient number of documented cases in which the provisions of HB2 caused a severe impediment to a woman seeking an abortion.
Thus far, Planned Parenthood has completely failed in this regard, in the opinions of both the appellate court panel and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). DSHS recently noted that, despite a plethora of unsound claims to the contrary, it can find no actual evidence that the accusation of HB2 causing undue burden is legitimate:
Those allegations proved to be overstated because multiple providers that allegedly would be forced to close nonetheless received admitting privileges and either stayed open or reopened. Not one of the [nearly 20,000] comments received by the department provides any basis to believe that abortion providers would be unable to make similar adjustments and likewise comply with the rule.
Keep in mind that this is a government agency on the front-lines of the battle over HB2, and even after receiving tens of thousands of comments related to the new clinic standards, they hold that “not one” of them “provides any basis” for the long-touted argument of “undue burden” so beloved by the abortion lobby in this state. This is no small rebuttal of Planned Parenthood’s hallmark argument against HB2. The comments that DSHS has received even fail to mention which abortion facilities would actually have to close down due to the pro-woman measures of HB2.
That the abortion lobby was ready to exaggerate – even lie – to ensure the viability of its coffers is no surprise. That it didn’t bat an eye before requesting that the courts dismiss long-standing “undue burden” precedent by the Supreme Court is even less surprising. All three judges on the Fifth Circuit panel raised their own questions in an attempt to decipher and unravel the shoddy evidence and unsound claims brought before the court by the plaintiff. At the end of the day, the court was unimpressed with the plaintiff’s case which so easily crumbled under scrutiny. Consequently, the court asked that Planned Parenthood submit new evidence to support the claim of “undue burden.” We will be bringing you updates and further information as the case progresses.