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Court Blocks Texas Law That Would Effectively Ban Abortion After 12 Weeks

Under SB 8, doctors would only be able to perform the safest and most common method of terminating pregnancies in the second trimester if the fetus' heart has already stopped—meaning they'd have to inject women with untested drugs, advocates say.

Gabby Bess

Gabby Bess

Photo by Amy Drucker via Stocksy/Effect by Callie Beusman

On Thursday, a federal judge temporarily blocked a new Texas law, Senate Bill 8, that would have banned the safest and most common method for second-trimester abortions, dilation and evacuation (D&E). The law specifically prohibited D&E abortions performed "with the purpose of causing the death" of a fetus, meaning that doctors would be required to stop the fetus's heartbeat before using this method.

Whole Woman's Health is an abortion provider in Texas that has been fighting to preserve women's reproductive rights in the state. In the clinic's lawsuit against the state, they argue that this requirement would pose significant risks for women seeking an abortion: In order to stop the fetus's heartbeat, doctors would need to inject a pregnant woman with a drug called digoxin or cut the umbilical cord—neither of which is safe, according to the clinic.

Read more: What It's Like to Risk Death and Jail Time to Get an Illegal Abortion

These alternatives "impose risks with no medical benefit to the patient, each of the procedures is untested, has unknown risks, and is of uncertain efficacy," the lawsuit states. According to estimates, D&E accounts for as many as 95 percent of abortions after 12 weeks.

Those who support the bill argue that these regulations will ensure the fetus is treated "humanely." But a federal court sided with Whole Woman's Health and granted a temporary restraining order to keep the bill from going into effect on September 1. In his ruling, Judge Lee Yeakel wrote that the court found "no authority for holding that government-mandated medically unnecessary, untested, or a more invasive procedure, or a more complicated and risky procedure with no proven medical benefits over the safe and commonly used banned procedure, is a permissible means of regulating previability abortions."

In a statement, Whole Woman's Health said they are "elated" with the decision. But the fight to defeat the bill is far from over: According to the New York Times, the next hearing is on September 14, where the court will decide on whether to stop the bill from taking effect until the case is resolved. It could end up in the Supreme Court.

"Knowing that this is just the beginning of this legal fight, we ask our communities to remain vigilant and to educate themselves on the harmful effects of these abortion restrictions," Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of Whole Woman's Health, said in a statement. "Please know that our commitment to fighting these laws will not go away. Whole Woman's Health is here to stay."