Insane Texas Bill That Attacks Abortion From All Sides Just Became Law

It includes fetal funerals and criminal charges for doctors.
Pete Marovich via Getty Images

On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a far-reaching anti-abortion bill that critics have slammed as “cruel” and “unconstitutional.”

After a landmark Supreme Court ruling that struck down two Texas abortion restrictions last June, legislators in that state came back with a vengeance, considering some 50 anti-choice measures over the last several months. (Rewire called it an “anti-choice blitz.”) But the newly passed Senate Bill 8 stands out from the rest for the startling breadth with which it attacks abortion rights.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has already pledged to fight the law, saying in a press release that it was “rammed through” at the last minute despite widespread criticism. As it stands, however, parts of the SB8 are set to go into effect in September.

Here’s some of what it contains:

A ban on the safest type of second-trimester abortion.

SB 8 prohibits what it calls “dismemberment abortions”—a term adopted by anti-abortion advocates to target abortions performed via dilation and evacuation, or D&E.

But D&E is a safe and common method of second-trimester abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, just 11 percent of abortions nationwide take place after the first trimester, and roughly 95 percent of those are done via D&E. So a ban on the procedure is effectively a ban on abortion after 13 weeks.

A totally redundant ban on “partial birth” abortions.

The law also prohibits “partial birth” abortions ― the anti-abortion language used to described intact dilation and extraction procedures.

The issue? The Supreme Court already banned the procedure a little over a decade ago.

Possible criminal charges for anyone remotely involved in helping women get abortions.

Any physician who performs an abortion that would now be illegal under the law, such as a D&E procedure, could face up to two years in prison. (The woman herself would be exempt.)

But as Texas Rep. Joe Moody (D) pointed out in a debate on the House floor before the bill was passed, the wording of the bill also opens up the possibility that anyone involved in the process of helping a woman get a second-trimester abortion could now face felony charges, The Texas Observer reports. That could include a friend or family member who drives a woman to the clinic where the abortion is performed, or the receptionist whose job it is to book appointments.

“If the goal is to prosecute people who perform these acts, what’s written here goes way beyond that,” Moody warned.

A ban on fetal tissue donation.

Under the law, women who have abortions will be prohibited from donating fetal tissue, which can help with scientific research. Human fetal tissue plays an important roll in finding drugs for HIV/AIDs patients, for example, and in creating vaccines for things like Ebola. (Presently, women in Texas can choose to donate fetal tissue.)

But the Center for Reproductive Rights argues that the way the law addresses fetal tissue donation is a clear effort to reproach women who chose to end a pregnancy.

“By banning fetal tissue donation just for women who have had abortions — and not other patients — the state is singling out those women to shame them and send a clear message that the state does not approve of their decision to have an abortion,” the group said in a press release.

A requirement that women have “fetal funerals.”

Texas legislators have tried several times to pass legislation requiring the burial or cremation of all fetal tissue resulting from abortion or miscarriage — and with the passage of SB 8, they may have just succeeded. The law requires that all facilities that treat pregnant women dispose of any embryonic and fetal remains that are “passed” or “delivered” via burial or cremation, meaning women who miscarry in a medical facility are also subject to the rule. Abortion clinics are required to cover burial or cremations, though the law includes a provision for the creation of a “burial or cremation assistance” registry that could help offset some of the costs.

But Gov. Abbott won’t stop there. On Tuesday he also announced a special session to begin on July 18, in which Texas legislators will consider a ban on private insurance coverage for abortion, in addition to several other anti-choice measures.

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