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DOJ Asks 5th Circuit to Pause Texas Abortion Ban While Case is Being Appealed

The battle over womens’ reproductive rights and the country’s most restrictive abortion law in Texas continues to wage, with the Department of Justice now stepping in to advocate for those residents seeking an abortion in the state.

On Monday, the DoJ asked the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals to halt Texas’ six-week abortion ban while its suit challenging the new law is appealed. Allowing the ban to remain in effect, the Justice Department said in its filing, “would prolong” its “substantial harm to the United States’ sovereign interests and would disserve the public interest.” The Justice Department said that the appeals court should reverse the administrative hold and deny Texas’ request that the law remains in effect during the appeal. Under the law, private citizens can bring state court litigation against clinics or anyone else who facilitates an abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, a point about six weeks into pregnancy and often before most people know they’re pregnant. The law provides no exception for rape or incest, although there is an exemption for “medical emergencies.”

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Last week, the Justice Department had secured a preliminary order blocking the ban from US District Judge Robert Pitman. The morning after Pitman issued his order, some clinics in Texas resumed providing abortions to patients who were beyond six weeks in their pregnancies. The clinics had done so at some legal risk, as the Texas law allows enforcement actions to be brought for abortions conducted while a court order blocking the law is in effect if a higher court later reverses the order.

On Friday, at Texas’ request, the 5th Circuit put a brief administrative hold on Pitman’s order, effectively reviving the law. The 5th Circuit is now considering whether to keep the law in force while it considers Texas’ appeal of Pitman’s order.

 

By “both defying the Constitution and frustrating judicial review, Texas has not merely protracted its assault on the rights of its citizens; it has repudiated its obligations under our national compact in a manner that directly implicates sovereign interests of the United States,” the Justice Department said in its brief, which it submitted nearly a day before it was due.

 



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