Federal Appeals Court Halts Order Blocking Texas Abortion Ban

A federal appeals court issued a temporary stay on a judge’s order blocking Texas’ near-total abortion ban Friday, CNN reports.

Texas earlier this year enacted a novel law barring abortion at around six weeks, before most women know they are pregnant, that uses a vigilante-style system allowing citizens to enforce the law by suing providers and others who help women get abortions and win at least $10,000 to get around judicial review because the government itself is not enforcing the policy.

Abortion providers filed a lawsuit against the state but the Supreme Court allowed the law to go into effect, even though the six-week ban violates the court’s precedent barring abortion bans before fetal viability, which is around 24 weeks.

That lawsuit and others continue to be litigated in state and local courts but the Justice Department filed a separate lawsuit arguing that the ban was unconstitutional and that the enforcement scheme was illegal.

Federal judge blocked law:

Last week, District Judge Robert Pitman issued a 113-page opinion blocking the law from being enforced while the lawsuit is litigated.

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” wrote Pitman, an Obama appointee.

Pitman said that the state legislature had “contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme” and while other courts may disagree, he said, “this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”

Appeals court issues stay:

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative courts in the country, issued an administrative stay temporarily halting Pitman’s order on Friday night.

The stay came after Texas attorneys argued that Pitman’s order violated precedent.

"There is no precedent for the district court's injunction; it grossly and irreparably interferes with Texas state-court operations," Texas said in the filing. "It also places state courts and their employees under imminent threat of contempt based on the actions of third parties that they cannot control."

Some abortion providers had resumed services after Pitman’s order but abruptly halted them again after Friday’s ruling.

"It's unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas," Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. "Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear, and this cruel law is falling hardest on those who already face discriminatory obstacles in health care, especially Black Indigenous, and other people of color, undocumented immigrants, young people, those struggling to make ends meet, and those in rural areas."


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