Yesterday, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a decision allowing the state of Texas to immediately enforce certain provisions of its draconian anti-abortion law HB2, pending the outcome of an appeal on the merits. Since HB2 was enacted last year, the number of abortion clinics in the vast state of Texas fell from 41 to 19. Today, that number will go down to 7. Note that such clinics also provide a wide range of healthcare services for women and trans* people, including prenatal care, birth control, STD treatment (Texas has the 8th highest STD rate in the country) and life-saving cancer screenings.
HB2 is, among other things, a TRAP law (“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers”), which has become a popular weapon of shitweasels who enjoy brutalizing and punishing women in accordance with their misogynist religious beliefs. As I noted here, the Forced Birth Brigades are hip to the little problem that their odious religious views underpinning their opposition to abortion will result in laws that likely do not pass constitutional muster, so now:
[they] are effectively restricting abortion on other pretexts without any (obvious) connection to religion. For example: the ability of a fetus to feel pain; TRAP laws purporting to regulate abortion clinics for the safety of women but actually shutting clinics down; biased counseling requirements and mandatory delays (do men have mandatory delays for any common medical procedures? No I don’t fucking think so…); parental consent laws pretending to protect minors by blocking their access to a medical procedure that is 14 times safer than childbirth; and of course draconian prohibitions on public funding that lead to terrible outcomes for poor women.
Yes, the anti-regulatory zeal that animates conservative economic principles evaporates into thin air when the target of regulation is a non-profit women’s health clinic (or vaginas). Why, it’s almost as if deregulation is not really a conservative “principle” at all! (Either that, or “conservative principle” is an oxymoron.)
Most reprehensively, they are doing all of this on the disingenuous pretense of protecting the health of women. At issue in yesterday’s decision was whether Texas could immediately begin to enforce the remaining women’s clinics to conform to HB2’s Ambulatory Surgical Center (“ASC”) provisions, which require cost-prohibitive, medically unnecessary, multimillion dollar upgrades to facilities and equipment. Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights which challenged the law, calls the ASC provisions “a multimillion-dollar tax on abortion services.”
Writing in dissent to the two judge majority opinion, Judge Stephen A. Higginson (an Obama appointee) said:
[T]he district court found, after trial with witness credibility determinations, that an undue burden existed because Texas had over forty abortion clinics prior to the enactment of H.B. 2, and that after the ASC provision takes effect, only seven or eight clinics will remain, representing more than an 80% reduction in clinics statewide in nearly fourteen months, with a 100% reduction in clinics west and south of San Antonio.
The district court further found that there was no credible evidence of medical or health benefit associated with the ASC requirement in the abortion context…Weighing lack of medical benefit against the significant reduction in clinic access, the district court found the burden to be “undue.”
First, the district court recognized that there are 5.4 million women of reproductive age in Texas. Next, the district court found that if the ASC provision goes into effect, 900,000 women will live more than 150 miles from an abortion clinic; 750,000 women will live more than 200 miles from a clinic; and some women will live as far as 500 miles or more from a clinic. Furthermore, the district court explicitly considered the financial and other practical obstacles that interact with and compound the burdens imposed by the law, both in it its discernment of a substantial obstacle and also in its assessment of impact on women. Finally, the district court also found that the remaining seven or eight abortion ASCs lack sufficient capacity to accommodate all women seeking abortions in the state. Indeed, these remaining clinics would have to increase by at least fourfold the number of abortions they perform annually.
[T]he district court found that “abortion in Texas [is] extremely safe with particularly low rates of serious complications,” and further found that “risks are not appreciably lowered for patients who undergo abortion at ambulatory surgical centers.”
On the other hand, the district court found that if the ASC requirement goes into effect plaintiffs likely will suffer substantial injury, notably that enforcement would cause clinics to close in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, McAllen, El Paso, Houston, and Dallas. The longer these clinics remain closed, the less likely they are to reopen if this court affirms that the law is unconstitutional. The district court further found that only seven or eight clinics will remain open, and that these clinics alone lack sufficient capacity. Unless shown to be clear error, this circumstance is comparable to the one the Seventh Circuit observed would subject patients “to weeks of delay because of the sudden shortage of eligible [clinics]—and delay in obtaining an abortion can result in the progression of a pregnancy to a stage at which an abortion would be less safe, and eventually illegal.”
[emphasis mine; citations omitted.]
Nevertheless, Judges Jerry Edwin Smith (a Reagan appointee) and Jennifer Walker Elrod (Dubya) who wrote for the majority, ignored the district court’s findings and slithered their way through controlling legal precedent in order to unleash their fellow shitweasels immediately. In particular, these assholes held that: none of this shit constitutes an “undue burden” to a “substantial fraction” of Texans; that medically unnecessary obstacles placed before hundreds of thousands of people attempting to access legal medical care are perfectly constitutional; and that HB2 is likely to be upheld on the merits. Sadly, on that last point they are probably correct, given the current makeup of the same US Supreme Court that shat forth Hobby Lobby. (You can read the decision here.)
And so this morning Judges Smith and Elrod find themselves participants in our groundbreaking involuntary organ donation program, where we perform extractions of lifesaving organs whether people consent to them or not. For the uninitiated, we do not forcefully harvest organs from just anyone. All of our involuntary donors would happily force others to donate lifesaving organs without their consent. And since they feel so very strongly about this principle—if not about deregulation!—well, it is only right and fair that they live (or die) by it.
It appears we will not be harvesting Judge Higginson’s organs any time soon.
In related news, stock futures for the coat hanger manufacturing sector are soaring.