Texas ‘Dismemberment Abortion’ Ban (SB 415)
This law was last updated on Feb 13, 2019
SB 415 would prohibit a person from intentionally performing a “dismemberment abortion” unless the “dismemberment abortion” is necessary in a medical emergency.
The bill defines “dismemberment abortion” to mean:
[…]an abortion in which a person, with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child, dismembers the unborn child and extracts the unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or a similar instrument that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slices, crushes, or grasps, or performs any combination of those actions on, a piece of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip the piece from the body.
The term does not include an abortion that uses suction to dismember the body of an unborn child by sucking pieces of the unborn child into a collection container. The term includes a dismemberment abortion that is used to cause the death of an unborn child and in which suction is subsequently used to extract pieces of the unborn child after the unborn child’s death.
A person who violates this provision would face a state jail felony. In addition, any physician or an applicant for a license to practice medicine would be committing a prohibited practice if that person performed a “dismemberment abortion” in violation of this provision.
The bill states that if any court determines any part of the law to be vague, the court would interpret the provision, as a matter of state law, “to avoid the vagueness problem” and enforce the provision to the maximum possible extent.
If a federal court finds the law unconstitutionally vague a declines to impose the saving construction described in this provision, the Supreme Court of Texas would need to provide an authoritative construction of the objectionable statutory provisions that avoids the constitutional problems while enforcing the statute’s restrictions to the maximum possible extent.
The bill prohibits any state executive or administrative official from declining to enforce this provision, or adopting a construction of this provision in a way that narrows its applicability unless the official is enjoined by a state or federal court from enforcing this provision.
This law targets a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D and E), which is frequently used during second-trimester abortions. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an abortion using suction aspiration can be performed up to 14 weeks’ gestation, but after 14 weeks the D and E procedure must be used to perform an abortion. As such, dilation and evacuation bans, depending upon their language, may ban all surgical abortion past 14 weeks’ gestation. (Source.)
This law would take effect immediately if it receives a vote of two-thirds of all the members, elected to each house. If it does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, it would take effect September 1, 2017.
Companion bill to HB 844.
This law is based on model legislation designed by the National Right to Life Committee.
Passed the senate on March 20, 2017, by a 31-0 vote.