Judge approves Justice Department request for preliminary injunction against six-week abortion ban
Her order came in a case brought by the Justice Department, which sued Texas last month because abortion-rights advocates were unable to obtain a court order against Texas sanctions.
The law known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, or SB8, has been in effect for one month. This prevents physicians from intentionally performing an abortion if fetal cardiac activity can be detected.
Texas lawmakers designed the measure so that it would be difficult to challenge in court by preventing state officials from enforcing the law. Instead, the law entrusts enforcement to private parties and authorizes civil damages of $10,000 or more to anyone who successfully sues a defendant accused of performing or aiding in such abortion.
“Ever since SB 8 took effect, women have been barred from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” Obama-appointed Judge Pittman said in a statement. 113 page verdict. “While other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion, it is their decision; this court will not sanction another day for this aggressive deprivation of such an important right.”
The decision is likely to start a new chapter of fast-track legal proceedings that could return to the Supreme Court in the coming weeks. A divided High Court on September 1 rejected an emergency request by abortion providers to block the law. The majority of the court held that there were procedural reasons that it could not intervene.
Judge Pittman decided not to delay the effective date of his injunction to give Texas time to seek an immediate injunction from the appeals court, which means state abortion providers have at least a shorter time window to allow patients A wide range resumes offering abortions if they choose to do so.
Attorney General Merrick Garland called the decision “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.”
“Protecting the Constitution is the biggest responsibility of the Department of Justice,” Mr. Garland said. “We will continue to defend constitutional rights against anyone who seeks to undermine them.”
The Texas Attorney General’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it did file a notice of appeal shortly after the decision was issued. The case will next go to the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals, located in New Orleans. In the first lawsuit brought by abortion providers, that court had previously allowed the law to take effect.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of Whole Woman Health, said the organization’s four abortion clinics would immediately resume procedures up to 18 weeks of pregnancy. After the law went into effect, clinics were having to turn away about 80% of patients seeking abortions, Ms Miller had previously said. On Wednesday evening, he described the judge’s decision as amazing.
“This is the justice we have been demanding for weeks,” Ms Miller said.
Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said the organization was not surprised by the decision and called the injunction unprecedented.
“We expect a fair setback in the Fifth Court of Appeals,” Ms Schwartz said. “The legacy of Roe v. Wade is that you have these judges who will bow down to cater to the abortion industry.”
During the month since the law went into effect, women in Texas have been traveling to other states for abortions, prompting a surge in patients at clinics in nearby states.
The Texas measure is in apparent conflict with the current Supreme Court precedent protecting abortion rights, but a key question in litigation is whether a plaintiff is early enough to get a judge to address the essence of state restrictions. can remove procedural bottlenecks.
The Justice Department alleged that the Texas ban violates the constitutional mandate that federal law is supreme to state law, as well as the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law, the basis for the Supreme Court’s recognition of the constitutional right to abortion. .
It also argued that the state’s measure was pre-empted by federal law because it prohibited certain abortions “that federal agencies are accused of facilitating, funding, or reimbursing,” including health care. Programs that cover procedure in cases of rape or incest. Texas law does not include any exceptions for such cases.
The state argued that the Justice Department’s suit was unfair and said it was not possible for the judge to issue a practical injunction because there was no person whom the court could legitimately prevent from enforcing the law.
Judge Pittman dismissed those arguments and found that the Justice Department had a valid basis for prosecuting Texas because state law prevented federal officials from fulfilling their obligations. He also said that the federal government could sue to prevent possible violations of citizens’ constitutional rights. Texas, he said, could not use the law’s unusual design to evade federal judicial review.
The judge directed his injunction against the state and any person acting on its behalf. This will continue as long as the litigation in the case continues until a High Court takes steps to put a stay on it.
—Elizabeth Findell and Sadie Gurman contributed to this article.
Brent Kendall [email protected] . Feather