A ban on abortions when an unborn baby can feel pain took effect in Texas today, one day after a federal judge blocked other new restrictions on abortion practices in the state.
“The American public understands the importance of this law. Pain-capable unborn children should be protected from the violent act of a dismemberment abortion,” Mary Spaulding Balch, National Right to Life’s director of state legislation, said Oct. 29. “Sadly, 40 states still allow it. We continue to work for a day when mothers and their children are fully protected and respected by our laws and our society.”
“Unborn children and their mothers deserve better than the violence of abortion,” she said.
The law bans abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy on the grounds that an unborn baby can feel pain at this point. Nine other states also bar late-term abortions on the basis of fetal pain.
The Texas state legislature passed the ban in July as one of several provisions in a bill restricting abortions.
On Oct. 28, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled against two other provisions of the law, but not the late-term abortion ban.
Yeakel said that a separate provision requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic was unconstitutional and issued a permanent injunction against it. The judge said the provision creates a “substantial obstacle” and an “undue burden” for a woman seeking “an abortion of a nonviable fetus.” He said the provision was not rationally related to state interests in preserving and promoting fetal health and a woman’s health.
Judge Yeakel, a George W. Bush appointee, also issued a limited injunction against a provision of the law requiring that all abortions take place in surgical centers, a provision which would have ended the practice of giving women abortion drugs to take at home, the Washington Post reports.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office said the state immediately appealed the ruling.
The lawsuit has been filed by 11 abortion clinics and three abortion-performing doctors who said the provisions would end abortions in over 33 percent of the state’s licensed abortion facilities. They said the law would end abortions in Fort Worth and five other major cities.
Texas Right to Life said the bill provisions were intended to “protect women and life” and to “raise standards for abortion providers.” The organization charged that Judge Yeakel’s decision “further jeopardizes the health of abortion-vulnerable women.”
Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action, said the decision showed “contempt for women’s safety.”
“Pro-life organizations and independent concerned citizens have documented ambulance after ambulance shipping injured mothers from abortion facilities to hospitals,” she said Oct. 28. “This should be proof enough that these doctors are woefully unqualified to mend the horrors they regularly wreak on women. But furthermore, women across the country should ask themselves: ‘If my doctor can’t earn a hospital’s trust, do I really want him treating me?’”
Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis drew national attention to the law in June, when she held a filibuster opposing it for more than 10 hours at the close of the Texas legislature’s first special legislative session of the year.
The legislative session closed in controversy, with some abortion supporters in the legislature’s upstairs gallery disrupting the attempt to vote on the bill.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry subsequently called a second special session of the legislature to pass the abortion restrictions and other laws, amid displays of support from pro-life groups.
Commenting on the recent ruling, Balch observed that although opponents of the legislation had challenged “smaller pieces” of the new law, they never challenged the protections for “pain-capable children.”
“Even our opponents realize this legislation, and the extensive science behind it, is sound,” she said.
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