State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who is vying to be the state’s next attorney general, filed an amicus brief on Friday encouraging the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm abortion restrictions approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

This is the second such brief that Branch — who is facing state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, and Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman in the Republican primary — has filed on a hot-button issue since the start of his campaign.

In August, he filed a brief with the Texas Supreme Court defending a state law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman in light of a case in which a same-sex couple married in Massachusetts was seeking a divorce in Texas.

Critics argued that his motivations were purely political, but a campaign spokesman said at the time that Branch "strongly believes it's the duty of the attorney general to defend the sovereignty and laws of Texas.”

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In his latest filing, Branch supports the position of current Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, in defending contentious provisions of House Bill 2, which the representative said in a statement were passed "to protect the health and well-being of all [Texas] citizens.”

Passed by lawmakers during a special session this summer following a high-profile legislative battle, the bill requires that physicians performing or inducing abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. It also requires that the use of abortion-inducing drugs be limited to a more stringent federal protocol.

A U.S. district court judge determined that the admitting privilege requirements imposed an undue burden on women seeking an abortion, and that it would be unconstitutional to require the federal protocol for abortion-inducing drugs if a physician determined that using a common evidence-based protocol would be safer for a particular woman.

A three-judge panel in the 5th Circuit appellate court reversed the ruling. Abortion providers immediately appealed, and a hearing is scheduled for January. (In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case.) 

In his brief, Branch argues that, in regard to the admitting privileges provision, “not only was the district court wrong in its ultimate factual conclusion, it was not the court’s place to question the judgment of the Legislature in the first place.” He also calls the district court’s additional exception to the drug-related provisions “unnecessary.”

Branch’s primary opponents are unlikely to challenge his conclusion that the bill should be upheld “in its entirety.”

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Paxton was a co-sponsor of HB 2 in the Senate and has highlighted his anti-abortion views on the stump, including at a recent fundraiser with South Dakota-based anti-abortion activist Leslee Unruh.

Smitherman has also been outspoken on the issue, repeatedly asserting his belief that most unborn fetuses, if given the opportunity to vote, would vote Republican.

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