On Monday, January 6, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear arguments for and against House Bill 2, the new Pro-Life law passed by our Legislature during the second special session. After the bill passed, Federal District Judge Lee Yeakel (Austin) sided with the abortion plaintiffs by ruling that two provisions of House Bill 2 were unconstitutional.
The three-judge panel, drawn at random by the court, will consider arguments from both the Office of Attorney General Greg Abbott and the plaintiffs who include abortion businesses Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health.
The panelists are former Chief Justice Edith Jones, Justices Jennifer Elrod, and Catharina Haynes. Justice Elrod and Justice Haynes served on the three-judge panel that temporarily green-lighted the law to take effect, reversing the injunction issued by Judge Yeakel in October. Consequently, the 30-mile rule was enacted, requiring any doctor who commits abortion to secure admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion center. The ruling also allowed most of the new restrictions on the abortion drug, RU-486, to go into effect.
Former Chief Justice Edith wrote the 2012 opinion affirming Texas’s landmark Sonogram Law. She recognized the significance of informed consent before an abortion, “The required disclosures of a sonogram, the fetal heartbeat, and their medical descriptions are the epitome of truthful, non-misleading information.”
One of the key issues will be the “undue burden” discussion. Some allege that the new law imposes an undue burden for the abortionist or center while other abortion advocates claim that pregnant women face undue burdens in seeking an abortion procedure. While many abortion clinics have closed due to the law being in effect, regrettably, pregnant women are still finding access to abortion without excessive burdens.
The portion of HB 2 that bans abortion at five months, the point at which preborn children can feel pain, has not been challenged in court. This important part of the law went into effect on October 30, 2013.
Attorney General Greg Abbott and his staff have repeatedly and successfully defended the sanctity of innocent human life in the courts and through rulings and legal opinions. Last year, Attorney General Abbott confirmed his commitment to this fight saying, "When the battle leaves the State House, [we] wind up in the courthouse…and you have an Attorney General who has your back."
The Texas Right to Life legislative staff will be in New Orleans at the Fifth Circuit trial during the hearing on Monday. Visit TexasRightToLife.com for updates.