AUSTIN – A federal judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of the Texas Abortion Act late Wednesday night, effectively banning the procedure, giving the Biden administration an early victory in a legal challenge to the law.
In a 113-page ruling, Austin U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman called the law “an offensive deprivation of such an important right” and said state actors, including judges and court clerks, could no longer enforce its provisions.
“Since that moment (the law) came into force, women have been prevented from illegally controlling their lives in a way that is protected by the constitution,” Pitman wrote.
Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the so-called “fetal heartbeat” bill in May – forcing the issue of reproductive rights back into the political spotlight. If the fetal heartbeat is detected, usually after about six weeks of pregnancy and many people realize that they are pregnant, the law prohibits abortion. There is no exemption in case of rape or incest.
Abortion providers say the law would limit 85% of Texas abortion procedures. The law is one of the most direct challenges to the legality of abortion, in line with the 1973 landmark Rowe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Similar six-week abortion laws have been blocked by federal courts in Georgia, Kentucky and other states.
But last month the Supreme Court left the law to take effect. Due to objections from three Liberal Associate Justices and Chief Justice John Roberts, the High Court refused to impose law in Rule 5-4.
Associate Justice Sonia Stomayer called the decision “stunning” in a disagreement between Assistant Justices Stephen Brayer and Elena Kagan.
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While a federal court on Wednesday temporarily barred law enforcement, the fight against the law – and mass abortions – is far from over. Texas will likely appeal the decision, and the legal battle could again come before the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on the ruling of the Court of Appeals.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the decision was “a victory for Texas women and the rule of law.”
“The judiciary has the biggest responsibility to uphold the constitution,” he said. “We will continue to protect those who seek to infringe on their constitutional rights.”
The White House similarly praised the ruling in a statement. Press Secretary Jane Saki called it “an important step toward restoring women’s constitutional rights across the state of Texas.”
“Texas and many states in this country where women’s rights are currently under attack have only just begun to fight,” Sasaki said. “That’s why President Rowe v. Wade supports coding, why he has indicated a full official response to SB to, and why he will stand by women across the country to defend their constitutional rights.”
The uproar against the law in the run-up to the 2022 election has made abortion a major issue, where congressional control will once again take hold. The U.S. House passed legislation coding abortion rights in response to Texas legislation late last month, although the future of the bill in the U.S. Senate faces an uncertain path due to a 50-50 party split. Experts say the bill could be problematic for Republicans, and opinion polls show that most Americans are in the middle of an abortion.
This past weekend, protesters in cities across the country took to the streets to demand the end of the restrictive law. In Washington, D.C., a crowd of protesters gathered around a banner on Saturday with the banner “Ban from our bodies!” Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” has exploded from the speaker. In Texas, Democrat Mike Collier, who is running for lieutenant governor, joined the protesters and tweeted, “Men need to be quiet, sit down and listen.”
It remains to be seen how Pitman’s order will affect the availability of abortions in the state. Since the law has been enacted, abortion providers may be liable for the procedure performed while the law is temporarily blocked, assuming it is allowed to take effect later.
Wednesday’s preliminary injunction barred state judges or court clerks from accepting cases approved by the ban and the state must publish a copy of the ban on its public-facing court websites with “visible to the public, easy-to-understand instructions that SB8 lawsuits will not be accepted by Texas courts.”
Pitman writes in Ruling that it is clear that “people seeking to have an abortion suffer irreparable harm if they cannot have an abortion” and that abortion will be allowed to proceed if Texas law is temporarily blocked “at least for some of the victims.”
The state’s leading abortion providers stopped offering procedures under the law that could lead to violations, citing the costs involved in successful lawsuits.
After ruling Wednesday, Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said clinics representing her organization plan to resume work soon, “although the threat to sue by default will not go away until SB. 8 is hit for good.” . “
“The cruelty of this law is endless,” he said in a statement.
Texas law was different from other restricted abortion laws because it allowed private citizens to sue anyone involved in abortion providers and “facilitated and persuasive” abortions, rather than relying on officials to enforce them.
Anyone can take a person to an abortion clinic, among other situations. Anyone who succeeds in suing is entitled to $ 10,000 under the law.
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Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
In the meantime, at least two lawsuits have been filed since the bill became law. A Texas doctor was the target of a lawsuit after writing an op-ed The Washington Post She says she prepared for the abortion on September 5, five days after the law went into effect, noting that she could be sued for managing the process.
“I fully understand that this could have legal consequences – but I wanted to make sure that Texas does not back down from its bid to refrain from examining this unconstitutional law,” San Antonio’s Dr. Alan Brad said in a piece.
The Justice Department said last month that it would protect people’s access to abortion in Texas despite the law and would join a lawsuit aimed at stopping the law. The judiciary called for an emergency court order to be enforced because Texas “created an unprecedented scheme that sought to deny women and providers the power to challenge federal law (the law),” the filing said.
Garland issued a statement at the time stating that the judiciary would “continue to protect individuals who seek to obtain or provide reproductive health services under our criminal and civil law” under a law known as the Clinic Access Act.
“The department will assist federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is attacked,” Garland said. “We have reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI Field Office in Texas and across the country to discuss with our enforcement authorities.”
Meckelberg reports from Austin. Hess reports from Los Angeles
Contributions: Mabinti Quarshi and Courtney Subramanian and Savannah Biharman