A federal judge last week struck down one of the many anti-choice laws passed in recent years by the Texas state legislature, this one a ban on dilation and extraction procedures during the second trimester. There are many such laws around the country being challenged in court.
So the judge was just following precedent, but that points to exactly what the larger problem is. Since 2010, when Republicans rode the Tea Party wave into control of about two-thirds of state legislatures, they’ve passed dozens and dozens of bills that restrict a woman’s right to choose, from TRAP laws to “fetal heartbeat” or fetal pain bills to outright bans on abortion after X number of weeks. The Supreme Court, thanks to Justice Kennedy, turned back the Texas TRAP law, but this is a long game being played, not a short one.
This week, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that Senate Bill 8, a Texas law which restricted a common second-trimester abortion procedure, was unconstitutional.
In a pointed decision on November 22, Yeakel said that the bill “does not further the health of the woman before the fetus is viable.”
“That a woman may make the decision to have an abortion before a fetus may survive outside her womb is solely and exclusively the woman’s decision. The power to make this decision is her right,” Yeakel wrote. “Once the Supreme Court has defined the boundaries of a constitutional right, a district court may not redefine those boundaries. Further, the role of this district court is to preserve a right, not to search for a way to evade or lessen the right.”
These bills were passed knowing they would be challenged immediately in court, with the goal being to get them into the pipeline in the lower courts so that if a Republican was elected last year, as obviously happened, they would be able to replace enough justices to turn the slim 5-4 majority in place to preserve the right to choose into at least a 5-4 majority to overturn Roe v Wade, if not more. Replacing Scalia with Gorsuch didn’t do that, but the next appointment likely will. All the more reason to focus on getting control of the Senate back next year for the Democrats.