The Texas Attorney General’s Office has spent over $500,000 on experts to defend the state’s abortion restrictions.
Texas Abortion Restrictions
In 2013, the state of Texas began enacting a series of abortion laws and restrictions. Texas banned abortions after 20 weeks, limited the use of an abortion drug, required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and required abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. The 2013 laws caused about half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics to close. In 2017, Texas enacted additional restrictions, mandating that health care facilities bury or cremate fetal remains from abortions.
Planned Parenthood and Whole Woman’s Health, the largest abortion providers in Texas, have sued the state five times challenging these restrictions. In four cases, the laws were temporarily blocked and the rulings are on appeal. The fifth case ended up in the United States Supreme Court, where the Court struck down the laws as unconstitutional.
Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the regulations which required abortion providers to obtain hospital admitting privileges and comply with the standards of surgical centers, were medically unnecessary and placed an unnecessary burden on the right to obtain an abortion. Justice Breyer wrote:
We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes…. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution.
Attorney General’s Experts
The Houston Chronicle reported that the Texas Attorney General’s Office has paid 21 expert witnesses to testify in these abortion cases since 2013. According to the court records, six of these experts were disregarded by the judges who were presiding over the cases. The judges dismissed some of the state’s experts for lack of medical or scientific credentials, unfamiliarity with the laws at issue, or for expressing personal opinions rather than expert opinions.
In the case regarding the state’s attempt to require the burial of fetal remains, the attorney general’s office hired Jeffrey Bishop, a philosophy professor at Saint Louis University, to testify in its support. Bishop testified that, “The state has the responsibility to uphold the dignity of human beings… It seems to me that grinding and washing tissue down the drain that was at one time part of human life is not a dignified way of disposing of those materials.” Bishop said that he had not read the rule because it was “very complicated to read.” U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks disregarded Bishop’s opinion, saying “He has no credibility with me whatsoever. He didn’t have any substantive knowledge at all about this case…. He’s just giving an opinion.” And an uninformed opinion, at that.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Ken Paxton defended the office’s choice of experts. Paxton said that the office chooses “an array of highly qualified and esteemed experts — some with pro-choice views — with multiple Ivy League degrees, numerous published articles, and years of hands-on practice in clinical and academic settings.”