Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Texas’ Six-Week Abortion Ban

Last month, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas alleging it enacted Senate Bill 8 “in open defiance of the Constitution.”

Demonstrators rally in support of abortion access outside the Texas Capitol on Sept. 11. (Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT)

By Ashley Lopez, KUT

A federal court temporarily halted Texas’ new abortion law on Wednesday. The law bans the procedure as early as six weeks, which is earlier than any other state in the country.

Judge Robert Pitman said in a ruling that Texas was violating its citizens’ “right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability.” 

“With full knowledge that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional,” Pitman wrote, “the State contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme whereby it created a private cause of action in which private citizens with no personal interest in or connection to a person seeking an abortion would be able to interfere with that right using the state’s judicial system, judges, and court officials.”

Last month, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas alleging it enacted Senate Bill 8 “in open defiance of the Constitution.”

Abortion providers in Texas have also challenged the law in both state and federal courts. They filed an emergency request asking the U.S. Supreme Court to temporarily block the law before it went into effect but it was denied.

As a result, Texas has had the country’s most restrictive ban on the procedure since Sept. 1. Every other state that has tried to enact a similar law has been stopped by the courts because the law was ruled unconstitutional. In effect, Texas was the only state in which the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade — which legalized abortions in the 1970s — was rendered null.

SB 8 prohibits people from getting an abortion as early as six weeks, even in cases of rape, sexual abuse or incest. The law was designed to evade a court block because instead of requiring enforcement by the state, lawmakers drafted the law to be enforced by private citizens.

Under the law, anyone — including people who don’t live in Texas — could sue anyone who provides an abortion after the six-week period. They could also sue anyone who provided emotional, logistical and financial support to that person. Individuals could be rewarded a minimum of $10,000 for a successful lawsuit.

In a joint statement from presidents and CEOs of Planned Parenthood South Texas, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, and Planned Parenthood Greater Texas, abortion providers in the state said the “extreme and harmful law” was allowed to be enforced for far too long.

“Even one day denies too many patients of their fundamental right to health care,” providers said. “While the Department of Justice’s swift action and the court’s order seek to restore Texans’ options to access abortion in their own state, we understand Texas will immediately appeal Our patients and providers need the courts to allow care to resume. We will keep fighting for our patients and their right to access abortion without government interference.”

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