U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman’s action in Austin blocks the state from enforcing a Republican-backed law that bars women from having abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, while the lawsuit over its legality continues. The case is part of a fierce legal battle over access to abortion in the United States, with several states following restrictions.
“This Court will not allow another day of this offensive deprivation of such an important authority,” Pittman said in the ruling. The ink was barely dry on Pittman’s orders before Texas informed the court that it intended to appeal the decision to the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, setting the stage for the next phase of the legal battle. .
“Tonight’s verdict is an important step towards restoring constitutional rights of women Across the state of Texas,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement late Wednesday. “The battle has just begun, both in Texas and in many states in this country where women’s rights are under attack,” she said.
Biden’s Justice Department sued Texas on September 9 and sought a temporary injunction against the law, arguing during an October 1 hearing that the measure violates the US Constitution. On September 1, the US Supreme Court allowed the law to take effect in a 5–4 vote driven by conservative justices.
At six weeks of pregnancy, many women do not yet know that they are pregnant. The law makes no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. It lets ordinary citizens enforce the ban, rewarding them with a reward of at least $10,000 if they successfully sue someone who helps them perform an abortion after a fetal heart activity has been detected.
Critics of the law have said that the provision enables people to act as anti-abortion bounty hunters. The Justice Department argued that the law prevents women from exercising their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy that was recognized in the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. . The department also argued that the law unreasonably interferes with the operation of the federal government to provide abortion-related services.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland hailed the decision as “a victory for women in Texas”.
Planned Parenthood said the preliminary injunction meant lawsuits filed under the law could not be accepted by Texas courts. “The relief the court granted today is overdue, and we are grateful that the Justice Department moved swiftly to seek it,” Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement.
Whole Women’s Health, which has four clinics in Texas, said it plans to resume abortions “as soon as possible” by 18 weeks.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has defended the legality of the state’s abortion law, the office said in a statement: “The most precious freedom is life itself.”
At the request of the Justice Department, Pittman heard arguments that lasted nearly three hours. Justice Department attorney Brian Netter called the law an “unprecedented scheme of vigilance justice” that must be abolished. Will Thompson, an attorney with the Texas Attorney General’s office, opposed the department’s arguments, saying there were too many opportunities for people in Texas to challenge the law on their own. He said the department’s arguments were filled with “exaggerated and provocative rhetoric”.
American conservatives have long sought to reverse Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court hears arguments on December 1 in a separate case involving a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Mississippi has asked the High Court to reverse the 1973 precedent.