On Wednesday, US Federal District Court Judge Robert Pitman, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, issued an order suspending the restrictive Texas abortion law, which he called an “offensive deprivation” of the constitutional right to an abortion. It came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Biden administration, which warned that other GOP-controlled states could rush to adopt similar measures.
But as expected, a federal appeals court on Friday night allowed Texas to temporarily resume banning most abortions, just one day after clinics across the state began rushing to serve patients again for the first time since early September.
Abortion providers in Texas had been bracing for the New Orleans-based 5th US Court of Appeals to act quickly, even as they booked new appointments and reopened their doors during a brief reprieve from the law known as Senate Bill 8, which bans abortions once any cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks, which is often before most women even know they’re pregnant. The most conservative court quickly granted Texas’s request to set aside Pitman’s order for now while the case is reviewed. It ordered the justice department to respond by Tuesday.
Now: Texas's 6-week abortion ban law, SB 8, is in effect again for now — the 5th Circuit has granted a temporary, administrative stay of this week's preliminary injunction (which halted enforcement of SB 8) to consider the state's request for a longer stay pending appeal pic.twitter.com/wdTIH5emjm
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) October 9, 2021
The new law threatens Texas abortion providers – and anyone else who aids in an abortion – with lawsuits from private citizens, who are entitled to collect at least $10,000 in damages if successful. That novel approach is the reason courts had not blocked the law prior to Pitman’s ruling: it leaves enforcement to private citizens, not prosecutors, which critics say amounts to bounty hunting.
We’re taking a hard look at the role special interest groups played in advancing Texas’s restrictive abortion law. https://t.co/Xj7dUiLXN9
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) October 9, 2021
Some providers have said Texas clinics are now in danger of closing while neighboring states struggle to keep up with a surge of patients who must drive hundreds of miles for an abortion. Others, they say, are being forced to carry pregnancies to term.
U.S. APPEALS COURT HAS REINSTATED TEXAS ABORTION LAW. pic.twitter.com/FMzVmOKADo
— Don Winslow (@donwinslow) October 9, 2021
[This is a developing and continuing story, please check back for updates]