Thursday, January 20

Judge orders Texas to suspend new law that bans most abortions

A federal judge ordered Texas on Wednesday to suspend the most restrictive abortion law in the United States.

Federal District Judge Robert Pitman’s order calls the law an “offensive deprivation” of a constitutional right by banning most abortions in the nation’s second most populous state since September.

It is the first legal blow to the legislation, which has so far withstood a wave of initial challenges.

In the weeks since the restrictions went into effect, abortion providers in Texas say the impact has been “exactly what we feared.”

In a 113-page opinion, Pitman criticized Texas for the law, saying that Republican lawmakers had “devised an unprecedented and transparent legal scheme” by leaving the app solely in the hands of private citizens, who are entitled to collect $ 10,000 ( € 8,650). in damages if they bring successful lawsuits against abortion providers who violate the restrictions.

The law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, bans abortions once heart activity is detected, which is typically around six weeks, before some women know they are pregnant.

“From the moment SB 8 came into effect, women have been illegally prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways protected by the Constitution,” wrote Pitman, who was appointed to the court by former President Barack Obama. .

“That other courts can find a way to avoid this conclusion is their decision; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right “.

But even with the law on hold, abortion services in Texas may not instantly resume because doctors still fear they could be sued without a more permanent legal decision. Planned Parenthood said it hoped the order would allow clinics to resume abortion services as soon as possible.

Texas ready to appeal warrant

Texas officials were quick to tell the court of their intention to seek a reversal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which previously allowed the restrictions to go into effect.

The lawsuit was filed by the Biden administration, which has said the restrictions were enacted in defiance of the US Constitution. Attorney General Merrick Garland called the order “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.”

The law was in force since September 1.

“For more than a month, Texans have been deprived of access to abortion due to an unconstitutional law that should never have gone into effect. The relief granted by the court today is overdue and we are grateful that the Justice Department moved quickly to seek it, ”said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, said the order was not unexpected.

“This is ultimately the legacy of Roe v. Wade, that there are activist judges who do everything possible, bending precedents, bending the law, to serve the abortion industry, “said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the group. The activist judges will create their conclusion first: that abortion is a supposed constitutional right and then they will work backwards from there. “

Impact on Texas ‘exactly what we feared’

Abortion providers say their fears have come true in the short time the law has been in effect. Planned Parenthood says the number of Texas patients at its clinics across the state decreased by nearly 80% in the two weeks after the law went into effect.

Some providers have said that Texas clinics are now in danger of closing, while neighboring states struggle to keep up with the surge in patients who must drive hundreds of miles. Other women, they say, are forced to carry pregnancies to term.

Other states, mainly in the south, have passed similar laws prohibiting abortion during the first weeks of pregnancy, all of which the judges have blocked. A 1992 US Supreme Court decision prevented states from banning abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

But the Texas version had so far outperformed the courts because it leaves law enforcement to private citizens to file lawsuits, not prosecutors, which critics say amounts to a reward.

“This is not some kind of surveillance plan,” said Will Thompson, an attorney for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, as he defended the law before Pitman last week. “This is a scheme that uses the normal legal process of justice in Texas.”

The Texas law is just one that has established the largest test of abortion rights in the United States in decades, and it is part of a broader push by Republicans across the country to impose new restrictions on abortion.

US Supreme Court will rule on Roe v. Wade

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court launched a new mandate, which in December will include arguments in Mississippi’s attempt to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade of 1973 that guarantees the right of the woman to the abortion.

Last month, the court did not rule on the constitutionality of Texas law by allowing it to remain in place. But abortion providers took that 5-4 vote as an ominous sign of where the court will head on abortion after its conservative majority strengthened with three people appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Before the new Supreme Court mandate, Planned Parenthood released a report on Friday saying that if Roe v. Wade, 26 states are prepared to ban abortion. This year alone, nearly 600 abortion restrictions have been introduced in states across the country, and more than 90 have been signed into law, according to Planned Parenthood.

Texas officials argued in court documents that even if the law were temporarily suspended, providers could still face the threat of litigation for violations that could occur in the time between a permanent ruling.

At least one abortion provider in Texas admitted breaking the law and was sued, but not by opponents of abortion. Former attorneys in Illinois and Arkansas say they sued a San Antonio doctor in hopes of getting a judge to overturn the law.

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