Austin: A federal appeals court has allowed Texas to ban most abortions since early September, just a day after clinics began racing to serve patients for the first time.
A one-page order issued by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals late Friday reinstated the nation’s strictest abortion law, which bans abortions after cardiac activity is detected, usually at about six weeks. .
It makes no exception in cases of rape or incest.
??Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear, ?? Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics that have resumed normal abortion services.
He called on the US Supreme Court to stop this madness and take action. ??
U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman, forced clinics to act swiftly after President Barack Obama’s appointment to a New Orleans-based appeals court, on Wednesday suspended a Texas law he called an aggressive deprivation? ? Constitutional right to abortion.
Knowing the order might not last long, on Thursday some clinics in Texas began performing abortions beyond six weeks, and booked new appointments for this weekend.
But barely 48 hours passed before the appeals court accepted Texas’ request to overturn Pitman’s decision?? at least for now ?? Further arguments are pending.
It gave the Biden administration, which brought the lawsuit, until Tuesday to respond.
??Good news tonight?? Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted.
??I will fight federal encroachment at every turn. ??
There were about two dozen abortion clinics in Texas before the law went into effect on September 1.
During the brief period the law was withheld, many Texas physicians were unwilling to perform abortions, fearing that doing so could still put them in legal jeopardy.
The new law threatens Texas abortion providers with lawsuits from private citizens who, if successful, are entitled to collect at least $10,000 in damages.
That novel approach to enforcement is the reason Texas was able to avoid an earlier wave of legal challenges earlier this week.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had already allowed the law to take effect in September, and it stepped in just hours after Paxton’s office urged action to be taken.
His office told the court that since the state does not enforce the law, it cannot be held responsible for the filing of private citizens that Texas is powerless to prevent. ??
It is not clear how many abortions Texas clinics performed while the law was in force.
As of Thursday, at least six abortion providers had resumed normal services or were gearing up to do so, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Prior to Pittman’s 113-page blundering order, other courts had refused to stop the law, which bans abortions before some women become pregnant.
This includes the Supreme Court, which in September allowed it to proceed without deciding on its constitutionality.
One of the first providers to resume normal services this week was Whole Women’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Women’s Health, said her clinic called early Thursday some patients who were on the list in case the law was blocked.
Other appointments were being scheduled for days to come, and the phone lines were busy again.
But 17 physicians from some clinics were still refusing to perform abortions because of the legal risk.
Pittman’s order was the first legal blow to legislation known as Senate Bill 8.
In the weeks after the restrictions went into effect, Texas abortion providers said the effect was “exactly what we feared”.
Planned Parenthood says the state has reduced the number of patients at its Texas clinics by about 80%.
Some providers have said Texas clinics are in danger of closure, while neighboring states struggle with a surge of patients who have to drive hundreds of miles to get an abortion.
He says other women are being forced to conceive.
It is unknown how many abortions have occurred in Texas since the law took effect.
State health officials say the September figures will not be available on its website until early next year.
A 1992 decision of the US Supreme Court prohibited states from banning abortions before viability, at which point the fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
But the Texas version has so far outstripped the courts because it leaves private citizens to file a lawsuit, not prosecutors, which critics say equates to a bounty.
??This is an answer prayer,?? Kimberlynn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, said.