Judge Delays Implementation of New Abortion LawPress Release
AUSTIN, TX – U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks is busy this new year with various reproductive rights lawsuits, including the newest one between the State of Texas and various women’s reproductive rights advocacy centers. This lawsuit concerns a new Texas law that would require fetal remains of aborted and miscarried babies to be buried or cremated.
LIVE! previously reported on the newest law proposed by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission back in June of 2016. After much debate, the law was set to go into effect on December 19, 2016. However, just seven days prior to its implementation, and 12 days after the Department of Health and Services finalized the rule, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CPR) sued the stated of Texas to “stop the latest unconstitutional abortion restriction.” U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks took on the case and issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new law until January 6, 2017, and after a 2-day trial.
The two-day trial began on January 3, 2017 with the attorneys for the Center of Reproductive Rights calling witnesses to the stand to begin making their case against the State. The Texas Tribune described the U.S. District Court in Austin as “nearly packed to capacity for the all-day hearing.”
Founder and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, as well as the main plaintiff in the case, Amy Hagstrom Miller, described the new rule as “discriminatory” and “offensive.” She further voiced her concern over how unclear the rule is and said “the vagueness puts providers in a vulnerable position where they could face fines or disciplinary actions by the state if those non-medical groups do something wrong.”
Jennifer Sims, Deputy Commissioner for the State Agency, counter argued that she is “unaware of any public health benefits of treating fetal tissue differently than other medical waste; the rules were meant to remove outdated terms and methods for providers [such as] grinding up fetuses and disposing of them in sanitary landfills.” Furthermore, Texas Assistant Attorney General John Langely argued that, should the new law go into effect, it will not “regulate and hold women accountable for anything that they choose or do not choose.”
Day one ended and day two began, but even after hours of both sides arguing their cases, Judge Sparks said he “wanted further explanation on the logic behind barring providers from incinerating fetal remains, a medical waste procedure the state has long allowed.”
He further requested the state to prove its case was not politically motivated, and asked the Center for Reproductive Rights to identify how the rule is unconstitutional and how it would create a burden on women by using their witness testimonies and evidence.
In the end, Judge Sparks moved to delay implementation of the rule for another three weeks while he comes to a final decision based on testimonies and evidence brought forth during the two-day trial. Visit here for an in-depth look at what happened during the two days in court.