In a season when many Americans are searching for a reason to be thankful in a nation lurching towards a fascist theocracy, there was a bit of news Texas women should be thankful for; at least in the short term. It is worth noting that at the rate religious Republicans and the evangelicals running the Trump theocratic effort have been assaulting women’s rights, the concept of good news for women is nearly non-existent.
The good news is that a United States District Court Judge issued a permanent injunction against theocratic legislation in Texas that restricted “the most common type of second-trimester abortions.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 8 (SB-8). was set to go into effect this year but it is “facially unconstitutional” according to Judge Lee Yeakel who issued the permanent injunction. The Judge, appointed by George W. Bush in 2003, issued a temporary injunction earlier in the year, and besides being unconstitutional on its face, Judge Yeakel said the religious legislation “intervenes in the medical process of abortion prior to viability in an unduly burdensome manner.” Of course the Judge didn’t really call SB-8 “religious legislation” and it is shameful he didn’t, but he did, however, say most of the right things in regard to how the Republican legislation is a deliberately “undue burden on women.”
At issue was the second-trimester procedure known as “dilation and evacuation” that is used in about 8 or 9 percent of abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “nearly 90 percent of abortions are performed in the first trimester” so naturally the “D&E” procedure is relatively rare. Republicans were intent on forcing physicians to use an unnecessary medical procedure that has no medical benefit to the woman and it was just one of the multiple things the Judge found fault with the religious legislation.
In his ruling Judge Yeakel wrote:
“The court is unaware of any other medical context that requires a doctor — in contravention of the doctor’s medical judgment and the best interest of the patient — to conduct a medical procedure that delivers no benefit to the woman [patient].
Supreme Court precedent leads inescapably to the conclusion that the state’s legitimate interest in fetal life does not allow the imposition of an additional medical procedure on the standard D&E abortion — a procedure not driven by medical necessity. Here the state’s interest must give way to the woman’s right.
Based on existing precedent alone, the Act must fail. Once the Supreme Court has defined the boundaries of a constitutional right, a district court may not redefine those boundaries. Further, the role of the District Court is to preserve a right, not to search for a way to evade or lessen the right.”
It it noteworthy that just last year, and on multiple occasions in the past, the Supreme Court has held that the government cannot impose an “undue burden” on women’s access to abortion before a fetus is viable, even if the statute in question promotes a “valid state [religious] interest.” The High Court also ruled last year that states are free to pass laws that express evangelicals’ profound respect for a single-called organism such as a zygote, or even an embryo or a fetus, “but not if those laws create substantial obstacles for women.”
At least for the time being, the courts still recognize that women’s rights supersede those of fanatical evangelicals who claim zygotes, embryos and fetuses are living human beings superior to the woman carrying them. This bizarre belief is despite the immutable word of the evangelicals’ almighty god that there is no “living being” until the fetus exits the womb and “breathes the breath of life.”
The ruling was regarded as a complete victory by women’s rights advocates such as Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president of one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs, Whole Women’s Health. Ms. Miller said:
“This is a huge win for Texas women and families.”
However, that celebratory sentiment may prove to be premature at best. Remember, Texas attacks on women’s reproductive rights have been regularly struck down as “facially unconstitutional,” and for “placing an undue burden on women and not promoting public health;” but the religious Republicans return time and time again. Evangelical zealots are regarded as fanatics for a reason; their religion forbids them from recognizing the validity of the U.S. Constitution or that they do not have the authority to use religion to place “undue burdens on women.”
As expected, the evangelical fanatic serving as Texas attorney general, Ken ‘preacher’ Paxton. promised that he would appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and “all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary;” punishing women with “undue burdens” is really important to Paxton and his evangelical extremists cult and they will not stop until the win. Through a statement preacher Paxton said:
“Through extraordinary evidence and expert witness testimony, we established that Senate Bill 8 is lawful, treats the unborn with dignity and respect, and protects the integrity of the medical profession.”
The Republican appointed federal judge didn’t buy any of Texas evangelicals’ arguments for a slew of reasons he had no problem citing. So the religious zealots will seek out a judge who doesn’t adhere to the Constitution or one who inherently hates women’s rights; like those Trump has been appointing to lifetime positions.
It is unclear if Paxton will be the evangelical freak appealing another unconstitutional piece of religious legislation designed to force doctors to “conduct a medical procedure that delivers no benefit to the woman patient.” Paxton is among a trio of religious right Republicans from Texas dealing with a world of serous legal issues of his own making. What Paxton does know is that the Texas legislation is part of a larger effort to confer ‘personhood’ on the ‘moment of fertilization’ to put a quick end to women’s reproductive rights whether it is the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy or use “artificial” contraceptives.
The evangelical right is setting a perilous precedent every day that no entity is challenging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and House Republicans who have designated the ‘moment of conception’ as a valid American citizen worthy of constitutional rights superseding those of the woman carrying the organism. It is likely that few Americans are aware of the despicable attack on women’s right to self-determination that will come to an abrupt and painful end if religious Republicans are able make women’s rights secondary to the moment of fertilization and the resulting single-celled organism.
This author is just sick to death of these evangelical freaks-of-nature pushing their bastardized version of something hardly related to Christianity on the population with special focus on women under the dirty lie they are pro-life. They are not pro-life, and they do not give a rat’s ass about “treating the living with dignity and respect.” If that was remotely the case they would not champion taking food, shelter, clean water and healthcare from real living human beings.
Since there has been nothing but assaults on women’s rights, maybe this Texas ruling is good news, but it is rare. At the rate religious Republicans are attacking women’s reproductive rights on all fronts, coupled with Trump’s appointments of anti-women’s rights federal judges, it is just a matter of time until one of them cites the HHS and House Republican precedent that according to the federal government, the moment of fertilization is a person. And they will prevail because no women’s advocacy group or Democrat has the courage to challenge that atrocity. Because doing so will mean citing religious imposition contrary to the Constitution and if there is only one thing women’s groups and Democrats are terrified of doing is stating publicly that all of these vicious attacks on American women are coming from evangelical extremists.