Whole Woman's Health v. Smith, No. 18-50484 (5th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs, several Texas healthcare providers licensed to perform abortions in the state, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the costs imposed by regulations regarding the disposal of embryonic and fetal tissue would violate Due Process by burdening the rights of women seeking an abortion. The district court granted a preliminary injunction, finding that some terms in the regulations were unconstitutionally vague and that the rules impermissibly burdened abortion access. While the appeal was pending, the Texas legislature signed into law SB8, a larger abortion-related bill that specified legitimate methods for disposing of fetal remains.
The Bishops subsequently filed an emergency appeal from an extraordinary discovery order by the district court to a religious body, compelling document production of the group's internal communications. The Fifth Circuit denied plaintiffs' motion to dismiss and reversed the district court's order denying the motion to quash and compelling discovery of internal communications within TCCB. The court held that the district court discounted the burdens of production on TCCB and failed to require more than a minimal, if any, rationale for discovery of TCCB's internal communications. The district court abused its discretion because it was too quick to reject TCCB's privilege claims and thus deprived TCCB of a fair opportunity to make its case for quashing the discovery.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on July 17, 2018.