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Whole Woman’s Health v. Smith (Texas)

(W.D. Tex. No. 1:16-CV-1300 / 5th Cir. Nos. 18-50484; 18-50730 / Sup. Ct. No. 18-622)

This case challenges a set of Texas laws that require healthcare providers to bury or cremate embryonic and fetal tissue following an abortion or miscarriage, regardless of their patients’ wishes. These laws violate the Constitution’s guarantee of personal liberty to act in accordance with one’s own beliefs about developing human life. Prior to their enactment, Texas law permitted a variety of disposition options sufficient to accommodate the wide range of beliefs—informed by diverse religious convictions, cultural traditions, and personal experiences—held by individuals who have abortions and miscarriages. If permitted to take effect, the challenged laws would force all Texans to act in accordance with a State-sanctioned belief system.

A federal district court permanently enjoined enforcement of these laws in September 2018. The case is now on appeal.

Defendant:

Executive Commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, in his official capacity

Co-counsel:

Center for Reproductive Rights; Morrison & Foerster LLP; Patrick J. O’Connell

Timeline and Key Documents:

December 12, 2016

Plaintiffs file Complaint

January 27, 2017

District court enters Preliminary Injunction

March 13, 2017

Defendant files Answer to Complaint

December 22, 2017

Plaintiffs file First Amended Complaint

January 5, 2018

Defendant files Answer to First Amended Complaint

January 29, 2018

District court enters second Preliminary Injunction

July 16-20, 2018

Trial

September 5, 2018

District court enters Permanent Injunction

September 5, 2018

Defendant files Notice of Appeal

September 5, 2018

Court of appeals hears oral argument

October 7, 2019

Case stayed pending the Supreme Court’s disposition of June Medical Services v. Russo

July 10, 2020

Plaintiffs file supplemental briefing on June Medical Services v. Russo

WWH V. SMITH—FIFTH CIRCUIT BRIEFS