Federal Judge Orders Texas to Pause Enforcement of Vigilante Abortion Ban
A federal judge in Texas has ordered the state to suspend enforcement on Senate Bill 8 – one of the strictest abortion bans in the country – that was signed into law last month by Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Judge Robert Pitman of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division – an appointee of former President Barack Obama – blasted the draconian restrictions in a 113-page ruling on Wednesday in which he stated that the law has resulted in an “offensive deprivation” of personal constitutional liberty.
“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established. Fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the State contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that. The State created a private cause of action by which individuals with no personal interest in, or connection to, a person seeking an abortion would be incentivized to use the state’s judicial system, judges, and court officials to interfere with the right to an abortion,” Pittman opined. “Rather than subjecting its law to judicial review under the Constitution, the State deliberately circumvented the traditional process. It drafted the law with the intent to preclude review by federal courts that have the obligation to safeguard the very rights the statute likely violates.”
SB 8 – also known as the Texas Heartbeat Bill – offers bounties of up to $10,000 to anyone who successfully sues an individual whom they suspect of having either performed or aided in a patient’s attempt to terminate a pregnancy.
“From the moment SB 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution. That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” Pitman said in his lengthy ruling.
“Above all, it is the intentional design of the law by state actors for the chief purpose of avoiding judicial review that sets it apart – and makes it particularly likely to be appropriate for this Court to enjoin,” he added.