Appeals Court Upholds Texas Law Banning Live Dismemberment Abortion

Appeals Court Upholds Texas Law Banning Live Dismemberment Abortion

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Aug. 18 to uphold a 2017 Texas law that bans live dismemberment abortion.

Overturning a district court’s previous decision, the appeals court criticized the lower court in its ruling, saying that the court “committed numerous, reversible legal and factual errors” and “bungled the large-fraction analysis.”

Nine of the 14 appellate judges agreed that dismemberment abortions are “self-evidently gruesome.”

“It has long been illegal to kill capital prisoners by dismemberment,” wrote Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Don R. Willett on behalf of the majority. “ … It is also illegal to dismember living animals. … The state urges that [the law] would simply extend the same protection to fetuses.”

The court argued that women are not being fully informed before the procedure about what happens to the unborn child during a live dismemberment abortion. 

“Consent forms do not explain in ‘clear and precise terms’ what a live dismemberment abortion entails. … [They do] not explain that the fetus’s body parts—arms, legs, ribs, skull and everything else—will be ripped apart and pulled out piece by piece.”

The 5th Circuit’s decision marks the first time a U.S. federal court has upheld a prohibition on dilation and evacuation abortion, which is the most common abortion procedure performed after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Pro-life group Texas Right to Life applauded the decision. 

“Texans celebrate today’s long-awaited victory,” Texas Right to Life Director of Media and Communication Kimberlyn Schwartz said. “Anyone can see the cruelty of dismemberment abortions, ripping a child’s body apart while her heart is still beating. We’re grateful the judges recognized this horror.”

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the law, also lauded the Aug. 18 decision.

“Texas has the right to respect the life of unborn children, and it did so when it chose to strictly limit the gruesome procedure of dismemberment abortions,” ADF’s legal counsel Elissa Graves said. “… The law is both humane and constitutional. As the 5th Circuit rightly found, the abortionists who filed this lawsuit ‘have utterly failed to carry their heavy burden of showing that [the law] imposes an undue burden on a large fraction of women in the relevant circumstances.’”

Texas Right to Life warned that if the abortion industry chooses to appeal this recent ruling, it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if dismemberment abortion is inhumane enough to warrant legal prohibition.

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