Let them take a limo

Another big win for the Texas Taliban and another big loss for women of childbearing age in Texas.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday allowed Texas to begin enforcing tough new abortion restrictions that will effectively close all but eight abortion facilities in the nation’s second-largest state. Unless the Supreme Court steps in, the law is poised to have the most devastating impact on abortion access of any such restriction across the country.

Under the law’s force, which will close 13 clinics, one out of six Texan women seeking an abortion will now live more than 150 miles from the nearest clinic.

Texas is an enormous state. It’s bigger than a lot of countries. It also has a large population, unlike big-in-size states like Wyoming and Montana. Eight places to get an abortion is nowhere near enough for such a colossus. 21 isn’t enough, and 8 is pathetic.

A lower court judge had previously ruled on August 28 that the law was unconstitutional, because it “would operate for a significant number of women in Texas just as drastically as a complete ban on abortion.” But in Thursday’s ruling, the three-judge panel in New Orleans said the law would not impose an “undue burden,” staying the district court decision as the state appeals.

Not undue, huh. Having to travel more than 150 miles is not an undue burden for, say, a woman in a low-wage job who can’t afford a car? Please.

George W. Bush appointee Judge Jennifer Elrod, writing for the Fifth Circuit, wrote that the district court judge had overreached because “in our circuit, we do not balance the wisdom or effectiveness of a law against the burdens the law imposes.” She conceded, “We do not doubt that women in poverty face greater difficulties.” But Elrod argued the court was required to find that a “large fraction” of women would be affected by the law, even as she noted that the number of affected women in rural Texas was 900,000.

Well but you see Texas has over 25 million people, so even though almost a million is a lot of women, it’s not a Big fraction. Sucks to be you, poor women in Texas.


  1. maddog1129 says

    I don’t see how it is constitutional to regulate a constitutional right out of existence. The purpose of the law is not regulation for health reasons; it is patently to burden the exercise of a constitutional right under pretext.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    What the hell does “large fraction” even mean? Over 50%? Over 1/3? If a new medicine was found to be killing slightly less than 1/3 of the people who took it, would that mean it could still be sold because it didn’t kill a “large fraction” of its users?

  3. lorn says

    I’m of two mind on this subject. On the one hand the law is clearly written expressly to shut down legal and lawful clinics performing legal, lawful, and necessary medical procedures and, as such, the law should be blocked by the courts. On the other hand, if most/ all of the clinics were shut down by the work of the lawmakers there might be enough outrage in a few years to kick the pro-life legislators and governor out of office.

    As it is now the courts are effectively a buffer for the pro-life goal of eliminating abortion providers within Texas. The pro life politicians are forced by the courts to go so slowly that the women of Texas are faced with incremental loss of their rights. The process is so slow that within the context of a busy and complicated life it is worrying and bothersome but not so traumatic that they are likely to stop what they are doing, take a day off work, and protest. People tend to be optimistic and assume that, while it is tragic that some women are grievously burdened by the law, their birth control plan will work and they will escape an unwanted or life threatening pregnancy. Somehow the bad thing won’t happen to them.

    If all of the clinics close it would be a wake up call for everyone.

    In the wider context, both on subject and nationally, a lot of the slide to the right in the last fifty years a has been accomplished by way of slow, incremental changes. A series of minor adjustments that, taken individually, were insignificant and possibly even justified. It is only after thousands of these small changes are we able to see the wider shift.

    Many individual motions have amounted to a massive nationwide contextual shift. Seemingly separate issues like abortion, the militarization of the police, the separation of the military from the citizen as they become a private army, the intrusion of religion into politics, corporations becoming people, the shift from free public schools to for-profit schools, the gutting of labor rights, and so many others, are all the results of small changes and narrowing of choices through manipulation of context. Each part is worrying, but not so alarming as to demand an interruption of normal life and massive public protest. Bills still have to be paid and the kids have to be hauled off to school.

    But when you see all the parts together the scene is far more alarming, but also overwhelming. The totality is too big to take in and maintain any sense of confidence you can change things. While the smaller issues are all happening too slowly to generate the critical mass of outrage necessary to get people out onto the streets in numbers necessary to change things.

    I don’t wish any woman in Texas to have to suffer not being able to get an abortion. But the course of the general tend within Texas is that abortions are, by design, getting more difficult to get. The interactions of the legislators and courts, with the lawmakers pushing for no abortions and the courts slowing, but never quite reversing the progression of restrictions, has meant that the tightening has been so slow that it fails to generate sufficient outrage to trigger significant political backlash. If the courts were to fail to reverse this it might trigger the necessary political realignments necessary to get the GOP out of office. At which point, given the importance of Texas, you would be looking at a wave.

  4. brett says

    This ruling really sucks. Barring it being overturn by an en banc ruling by the entire Fifth Court, the Supreme Court (with its five-man conservative majority) is going to here it, and very possibly use it as an opportunity to gut abortion rights in the half of the country that has these kinds of TRAP laws. Even the 5th Court seemed to recognize it, since part of one of the justices’ opinions stressed how they came to it differently than every other Court of Appeals (which have mostly overturned the laws in question).

    The scary thing is that Texan women are some of the luckier southern women if abortion gets effectively banned or heavily constricted in Texas. New Mexico is pro-choice and next door, and they’re building 1-2 clinics on the border to help east Texan women. The worst off are going to be poor women in places like Louisiana and Alabama, whose states are surrounded by other anti-choice states.

    Get ready for a lot more miscarriages in Texas (from women self-aborting using misoprostol that they got from a vendor, Mexico, or over the internet), and women injuring themselves like the bad old days before Roe

  5. brett says

    EDIT: I don’t know for sure that the Supreme Court will hear it, but it’s extremely likely now that there are divergent Court of Appeals opinions outstanding. Plus some of the conservative judges (particularly Scalia) have wanted to get a good opportunity to flip Roe since forever.

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