US judge halted the implementation of Texas’ near-total abortion ban
In a challenge brought by President Joe Biden’s administration after the US Supreme Court had allowed it to take effect, a federal judge temporarily blocked a near-total ban on abortion in Texas, the toughest such law in the United States.
The decision by US District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin on Wednesday prevents the state from enforcing the Republican-backed law, which prohibits women from obtaining abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, while the legality of the law is being debated.
The case is part of a ferocious legal battle in the United States over abortion access, with numerous states attempting to impose restrictions on the procedure.
“This Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” Pitman wrote in his decision.
BREAKING: A federal court just temporarily blocked #SB8—for now. This is an important step in the fight for reproductive freedom, but the fight for abortion access in Texas is still far from over. #BansOffOurBodies
— NARAL (@NARAL) October 7, 2021
Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion rights advocacy group, applauded the decision, saying, “No more Texans should have to suffer under this cruel ban.”
However, the group stated that the roadblock is only temporary, adding that “we still have a long road ahead of us.”
Biden’s Justice Department sued Texas on September 9 and sought a temporary restraining order against the law, claiming that the measure violates the US Constitution during an October 1 hearing.
“Anti-abortion bounty hunting”
The US Supreme Court approved the law’s implementation on September 1 by a 5-4 vote led by conservative justices.
Many women do not realize they are pregnant until they are six weeks pregnant. Pregnancies caused by rape or incest are not exempt from the law.
It also empowers citizens to enforce the ban by rewarding them with at least $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who assists in the provision of abortion after foetal cardiac activity is detected. According to critics of the law, this provision allows people to act as anti-abortion bounty hunters.
The Justice Department contended that the law prevents women from exercising their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, as recognized by the Supreme Court in the Roe v Wade decision. The landmark 1973 decision legalized abortion throughout the United States.
The department also claimed that the law improperly interferes with the federal government’s ability to provide abortion-related services.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has defended the state’s abortion law, saying in a statement: “The most precious freedom is life itself.”
The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the ruling.
According to Planned Parenthood, the preliminary injunction means that lawsuits filed under the law will not be accepted by Texas courts.
“The relief granted by the court today is long overdue, and we are grateful that the Justice Department moved quickly to seek it,” Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson expressed hope that the injunction would allow Texas abortion providers to resume services as soon as possible.
Pitman’s decision can be appealed to the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, a conservative-leaning body that previously allowed the Texas abortion ban to stand. Pitman was appointed by former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Conservatives in the United States have long sought to overturn Roe v Wade.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in a separate case involving a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy in December. Mississippi has petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 decision.
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