LUBBOCK, Tex. – As a legal battle continues over new abortion regulations in Texas, one official has announced that he will not enforce the recently enacted standards until they are officially deemed constitutional in court.
As previously reported, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed House Bill 2 (HB2) into law this summer, following strong support for the bill in the state legislature. Not only does HB2 ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks gestation, it also calls for increased health standards at abortion facilities. Pro-life advocates praised the new law, opining that it would protect the health of Texas women and save thousands of unborn babies.
However, as previously reported, several pro-abortion organizations—including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America—filed a lawsuit against HB2, arguing that the facility standards portion of the law would be “catastrophic” to the health and well-being of Texas women. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that HB2 would make “reproductive health care services for many Texans, especially poor and rural women, practically impossible to access.”
“If allowed to take effect on October 29,” the 32-page lawsuit reads, “[HB2] will force over one-third of the state’s approximately thirty-six licensed facilities where abortions are performed to stop providing those services, thereby dramatically reducing abortion access throughout the state. … [Remaining abortion facilities] will be forced to serve more women with fewer providers, which is likely to force women to wait for an abortion, which, in turn, increases the risk of the procedure.”
This past week, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel heard arguments from Texas state attorneys and pro-abortion litigants. As reported by Fox News, Yeakel stated that he is primarily interested in the constitutionality of the new law.
“The abortion issue is a big issue in this country and it’s a divisive issue,” Yeakel stated. “This court is not to rule on whether women should be allowed to have abortions … or my personal beliefs.”
In the meantime, even though HB2 will legally go into effect Tuesday, one district attorney in a populous Texas county announced that he will not enforce the law until Yeakel rules on its constitutionality. Matt Powell, district attorney for Lubbock County, announced last week he does not intend to enforce the law until a court decision is made—even though he is one of the legal defendants of the new measures.
“Why spend the money just to have some judge tell you not to [enforce the law]?” he asked, according to local affiliate KAMC.
Powell says he is against abortions, and promised, “we’ll enforce this law if it’s deemed constitutional.” Nevertheless, in a state where—according to the Texas-based Allied Women’s Center—approximately 80,000 abortions are conducted each year, many are frustrated with Powell’s decision.
Nearly eight years ago, when Powell first announced his bid for Lubbock County criminal district attorney, he vowed to be a voice for the voiceless.
“I need you to help me give a voice to the victims that have no voice,” Powell told supporters, according to a Lubbock Avalanche-Journal article. “I don’t know how to do anything else. I believe this is what God has called me to do.”
Following Powell’s announcement to postpone the abortion law, several Lubbock County residents expressed frustration via online comments. One individual, identified as “Jim,” suggested that someone challenge Powell in an election.
“Sounds like we need a primary challenge for Mr. Powell,” he wrote. “It is disgusting that [Powell] would even think about not prosecuting this fully and immediately. His county budget is there to protect life, so spending it in this way is right.”
Robert Pratt, former chairman of the Lubbock County Republican Party, also argued that saving lives should be a higher priority than saving money.
“Powell said, ‘Why spend the money just to have some judge tell you not to [enforce the law]?’” Pratt quoted. “How about the hundreds, if not thousands, of human lives that would be saved?”