A Texas law outlawing an abortion method commonly used to end second-trimester pregnancies was upheld Wednesday by a federal appeals court in New Orleans. The 2017 law in question has never been enforced. It seeks to prohibit the use of forceps to remove a fetus from the womb—what supporters of the law call a "dismemberment abortion"—without first using an injected drug or a suction procedure to ensure the fetus is dead, per the AP. Abortion rights advocates argued that the law, known as SB8 in court records, effectively outlaws what's often the safest method of abortion for women in the second trimester of pregnancy, a procedure medically known as dilation and evacuation. They also argued that fetuses can't feel pain during the gestation period affected by the law, and that one alternative outlined by the state, the use of suction to remove a fetus, also results in dismemberment.
A three-judge panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of the law last year. But Texas sought and was granted a rehearing by the full court. A majority among the 14 appellate judges who heard arguments in January (three of the court's 17 active judges were recused) sided with Texas. Per the majority opinion, "the record shows that doctors can safely perform D&Es and comply with SB8 using methods that are already in widespread use." Kimberlyn Schwartz, Texas Right to Life's communications chief, was pleased to hear the news: "Texans celebrate today's long-awaited victory." Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, had the opposite reaction, noting CRR is analyzing the decision and considering all its legal options. "Texas has been hell-bent on legislating abortion out of existence, and it is galling that a federal court would uphold a law that so clearly defies decades of Supreme Court precedent," Northup said.
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