Appeals Court Reinstates Texas Abortion Law
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted an injunction issued Wednesday by District Judge Robert Pitman that blocked enforcement of Texas’ “heartbeat” abortion law. The one-page order of the Appeals Court granted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request for a temporary stay of the District Court’s injunction.
The temporary stay means that Texas courts can proceed with cases under the new Texas abortion law, known as S.B. 8, while the appeals court considers Texas’ motion.
The move comes just two days after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman temporarily blocked the Texas law that relies on the prospect of private lawsuits to enforce a ban on abortions at about six weeks of pregnancy. The preliminary injunction, which immediately prohibited Texas state court judges and clerks from accepting suits under S.B. 8, was issued earlier this week in response to a lawsuit brought by the Biden administration.
Texas on Friday asked a federal appeals court to intervene “as soon as possible” to restore the abortion law, filing its request after Pitman said he was troubled by the design of the Texas statute, which makes it difficult for abortion rights advocates to challenge because of the lack of direct involvement by state officials or prosecutors.
“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,” wrote Pitman, an appointee of President Barack Obama based in Austin, Texas, in a 113-page ruling on Wednesday.
Texas has stated its intent to fight what they see as a federal overreach into state laws:
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the appellate court’s decision, vowing to “fight federal overreach at every turn.”
Texas had moved to protect the law from federal control by putting private citizens, not state officials, to enforce the law by suing abortion providers. Under the law, private citizens could be awarded up to $10,000 in damages plus legal costs if they are successful in their case against a provider. This did not stop the Biden Justice Department from going after the state, although their case against them was made on flimsy grounds.
This law has had its desired effect against abortion clinics; many had closed their doors on September 1 (when the law went into effect) rather than find legal challenges that would have brought them to the point of bankruptcy. The Center for Reproductive Rights president has asked the Supreme Court to President of the Center for Reproductive Rights; Nancy Northup urged the Supreme Court to “step in and stop the madness.” It seems to me this person does not understand the Supreme Court rules on law, not on her personal preferences.
The Biden administration has long argued that the law defies the U.S. constitution, insisting it should be declared “null and void.”
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