On Tuesday the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court upheld most of Texas’ stringent anti-abortion law, which could leave as few as seven clinics open in the nation’s second largest state. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked these restrictions in October; however, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling allows the law to stand, ushering in a likely wave of clinic closings for the Lone Star State.
The Associated Press explains how the law works:
The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows Texas to enforce Republican-backed restrictions that require abortion clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards, a checklist that includes rules on minimum room sizes, staffing levels and air ventilation systems.
This decision represents an endorsement of a long series of right-wing initiatives to chip away at the rights protected by Roe v. Wade. By pushing unnecessary laws targeting abortion facilities, the Right can mandate costly renovations that create a needless economic strain on clinics. For example, the Texas law requires abortion clinics to abide by the same standards as hospital surgical centers, despite the fact that many clinics solely provide medical abortions, which do not involve surgery. The Supreme Court has said that states may not pass laws with the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion. But the court yesterday turned a blind eye to the obvious in order to further the Right’s anti-choice agenda.
A panel of three judges, all appointed by George W. Bush, delivered the decision, which will force facilities across the state to shut their doors and leave women hundreds of miles away from a licensed abortion provider. Verdicts from the ultra-conservative Fifth Circuit bench, like the decision in October letting Texas enforce strict voter ID laws, highlight the importance of who sits on our nation’s courts. Although Fifth Circuit has two longstanding vacancies, Republican obstruction has prevented the filling of these seats. Tuesday’s decision further exemplifies the critical need for fair and just courts, particularly as right-wing legislators continue their relentless attack on the rights established by Roe.
HOUSTON -- Texas members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council praised a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week, made public today, to call for an investigation into comments reportedly made by Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones indicating a racial bias in her judging. The Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit determined that this matter would be more effectively investigated by another circuit’s Judicial Council rather than his (and Judge Jones’s) own. We learned today that Chief Justice Roberts had selected the D.C. Circuit’s Judicial Council for this task.
Judge Jones reportedly stated at an event at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in February that Black and Latino people are “predisposed to crime” and “prone to commit acts of violence.” In addition, Judge Jones reportedly said that those who receive the death penalty are done a favor and that arguments of mental retardation and systemic racism amount to “red herrings” in capital trials.
Rev. Dr. Rolen Womack of Houston, Co-Chair of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, said:
We commend the Fifth Circuit’s prompt action in requesting the next step of investigating Judge Jones’ alleged remarks and urge the District of Columbia Circuit to conduct a full and fair investigation.
Throughout American history, African Americans have faced systemic discrimination in the courts. To this day, African Americans are more likely to be arrested for certain crimes and face disproportionately harsh sentences, including being more likely to be sentenced to death. This systemic discrimination stems from the very attitude that Judge Jones reportedly put into words: that Black people and other people of color are “predisposed to crime.”
Americans rely on our federal judges to apply the law fairly and without bias. These recent alleged remarks have called Judge Jones’ impartiality into question. We urge the D.C. Circuit’s Judicial Council to promptly begin its investigation to consider whether Judge Jones should continue to serve on the federal bench.