HB2 trial goes to Appeals Court

Today, a three-Judge panel on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments over the constitutionality of HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill most famous for Wendy Davis’ filibuster against it. In October, a Federal Judge in Austin (Lee Yeakel) declared one provision of the law to be unconstitutional. The State immediately appealed the ruling, which was stayed by the Federal Appeals Court. The provision in question, requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, went into effect and allegedly caused the closure of a plethora of clinics.

Not included in these proceedings will be the constitutionality of the law’s most onerous restriction, requiring clinics to adhere to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. That provision does not go into effect until October 1st of this year. The provision requiring women to take an inducing drug at the clinic was found to be largely constitutional while a fourth provision, prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, was not challenged in the lawsuit.

Most analysts believe that this case will eventually make its way to the Supreme Court, and could end up being a true battle royale for the abortion issues. While I cannot believe the Supreme Court would actually have the naive temerity to overturn Roe, it could very easily neuter it in an backhanded way that would harm countless women. All this would happen in June 2015, after the Fifth Circuit makes a final ruling in the early summer. HB2 proponents are somewhat confident they will prevail at the Fifth Circuit, for reasons I will delineate below:

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HB2 ruling stayed

The Texas Tribune reports that the Federal District Court opinion ruled unconstitutional on Monday has been stayed upon appeal by the Federal Appeals Court (5th Circuit). A three judge panel made up of Judges Priscilla Owens, Jennifer Elrod and Catharina Haynes (all appointees of George W. Bush) unanimously decided that the Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the bill in January. Until that time, however, a stay would be put on the District Court’s opinion, meaning those pertinent parts of HB2 would go into effect.

In granting the stay, the panel concluded that the provision fully overturned by the District Court –requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital– had a good chance of being reinstated on the merits of its constitutionality by the Appeals Court. In fact, the entire order read like a final judgment upholding the constitutionality of the law.

From here, opponents of the law are seeking two separate resolutions. First, they are hoping to see the law struck down as unconstitutional. Second, they are trying to see that, in mean time, the law does not go into effect. The paths for these two resolutions diverge a little bit at this point.

Click here to find out what we should do now and the implications this ruling is having already!