Trial over HB2 begins

The Texas Tribune reports that the long-awaited trial over HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion legislation, had begun. The lawsuit, which was filed last month by Planned Parenthood & friends, is being heard in the Austin division of US District Court for the Western District of Texas. Specifically, the suit is being heard by Judge Lee Yeakel, a Bush appointee who most famously blocked a bill in 2011 to defund Planned Parenthood.

The astute will remember that this bill, the same one Wendy Davis so famously filibustered for nearly 13 hours, is comprised of four distinct parts. First, the bill bans elective abortions after 20 weeks. Despite being referred to as the flagship component of the bill, this segment is actually somewhat non-controversial and was not challenged in the lawsuit. Further, the most far reaching provision, that clinics adhere to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, will not go into effect for about another year. Accordingly, it will not be challenged as well.

Instead, the remaining two provisions are being challenged. These are a requirement for abortion doctors to have admitting rights at a nearby hospital and the requirement for the inducing drug (a pill) to be administered by the doctor her or himself, respectively.

Arguments on Monday centered over whether the law would constitute an “undue burden” on women, as would be prohibited in current controlling jurisprudence on abortion (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). Plaintiffs, of course, argued that the restrictions that could possibly close a majority of the State’s abortion clinics were unconstitutional. The Attorney General’s office, meanwhile, argued that the restrictions were in the best interest of the health of women. That being said, the plaintiffs called the medical director of PPGC to testify at the trial, at which point he delivered convincing testimony against the law:

“Although he has admitting privileges at Ben Taub hospital in Houston, Fine said that in the case of an emergency, it is unlikely he would be called to treat a patient. Women would most likely be taken to the closest facility, which may not be the facility that the abortion provider has privileges at, he said, and then receive treatment from emergency medical staff and the doctors on call for obstetrics and gynecology.

Following the FDA regimen for abortion-inducing drugs isn’t unsafe, but it is less effective and has more side effects than the evidence-based protocol followed by most abortion providers, said Fine, who participated in the FDA’s clinical trial for Mifeprex, the abortion-inducing drug. He said the FDA regimen requires three pills, instead of one — at a cost of $90 per pill — and shortens the time limit on medical abortions by two weeks to 49 days gestation. The evidence-based regimen also adds the use of antibiotics to prevent infection.”

It is expected that the trial will end tomorrow, after which Judge Yeakel will deliver an opinion as soon as possible.

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