A protest against Texas’s SB8 law banning almost all abortions (Reginald Mathalone/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock)
UPDATE, OCT 15:
As expected, the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has upheld Texas’s near-complete ban on abortions.
In a 2-to-1 order, the court refused the Justice Department’s request to reinstate an earlier court ruling lifted the ban on abortion beyond six to seven weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases such as rape or incest.
Judges James Ho, a nominee of Donald Trump, and Catharina Haynes, a nominee of President George W. Bush, did not give their reasoning. Judge Carl Stewart, a nominee of President Bill Clinton, dissented.
UPDATE, OCT 9:
A federal appeals court in Texas has temporarily reinstated the state’s law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
In a two-page ruling, the three judges on the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit — considered one of the most conservative benches in the country — granted a stay maintaining the ban as it considers an appeal by the state of Texas of the ruling of US District Court Judge Robert Pitman on Wednesday.
At least six Texas clinics resumed abortions after Pitman’s decision, but most of the state’s providers had refrained, anticipating the legal developments.
The Court of Appeals called on lawyers for the Biden administration to respond to Texas’s appeal by Tuesday.
Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, “The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness. It’s unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY, OCT 7: A federal judge blocks enforcement of a Texas law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
In a 113-page ruling, Judge Robert Pitman accepted the objections of the Biden Administration to the Texas Senate Bill 8, which delegates enforcement to private individuals who can sue anyone who performs abortions or “aids and abets” them.
Pitman wrote, “From the moment SB 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their own lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution. This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”
The judge enjoined Texas or anyone acting on its behalf from enforcing the law, specifically ruling that state court judges and court clerks cannot act.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland reacted:
[This is] a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.
It is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution. We will continue to protect constitutional rights against all who would seek to undermine them.
But despite the ruling, Texas clinics are unlikely to restore services. The ban allows providers to be sued retroactively for any abortions they provide, even while the law is suspended by courts.
Nancy Northup, the president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said clinics “hope to resume full abortion services as soon as they are able, even though the threat of being sued retroactively will not be completely gone until S.B. 8 is struck down for good”.
Whole Woman’s Health, which has four Texas clinics in the state, said it is “making plans to resume abortion care up to 18 weeks as soon as possible; however, a spokeswoman said she did not know when this would happen.
Attorneys for the state of Texas notified the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit — considered one of the most conservative courts in the country — that they will challenge the ruling.
The Biden Administration intervened last month after the Supreme Court declined to block the law in a 5-to-4 decision. The justices did not rule on whether the ban was constitutional, so the Justice Department filed an emergency motion requesting an order preventing enforcement while judicial proceedings continued.