Testimony begins in challenge to Texas abortion law


A Texas law banning second-trimester abortions on living fetuses requires doctors to use untested, complicated and riskier procedures that have no medical benefit to the woman, an Oregon doctor who teaches and performs abortion testified Thursday.

Kicking off a five-day federal court trial on a bid by abortion providers to overturn the law, Dr. Mark Nichols said the regulation would force physicians to choose from several methods of inducing “fetal demise” that carry increased risks of infection and injury before beginning the safest and most common type of procedure – dilation and evacuation, or D&E, beginning in the 15th week of pregnancy.

Two methods of injecting toxins into the fetus require special skills and equipment and are not guaranteed to work, forcing doctors to consider a second injection – which adds to the health risks for women – and placing physicians in danger of prosecution for violating the law, he said.

In addition, Nichols testified, the injection procedures are not commonly performed earlier than the 18th week of pregnancy, requiring doctors to essentially experiment on patients to meet the fetal demise requirement.

A third method, cutting the umbilical cord, is difficult to complete, particularly at younger gestational ages, Nichols said.

“I would be very nervous about being able to provide this service and not violate the law,” he said.

Darren McCarty with the Texas attorney general’s office challenged Nichols, noting that some Texas doctors prefer to induce fetal demise before a D&E abortion because they believe there are medical benefits.

McCarty also scoffed at claims that the differences between the 17th and 18th week of pregnancy would be great enough to increase risks.

But Nichols said the smaller size of the fetus, coupled with the larger amount of amniotic fluid, makes fetal demise procedures more difficult “the earlier you are in the pregnancy.”

The Texas law, approved by the Legislature in May and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, was blocked from taking effect on Sept. 1, leading to a trial scheduled to end Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel.

The trial broke for lunch with Nichols still on the stand.



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