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Federal Appeals Court Ends Injunction On Texas Abortion Law

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


The celebration for pro-choice Democrats did not last long after a judge issued a temporary halt to the controversial law.

In a one-page decision on Friday, The Fifth Circuit Court Of Appeals set aside a lower court ruling that placed a temporary halt on enforcement of the law, Fox News reported.

“Great news tonight, The Fifth Circuit has granted an administrative stay on #SB8. I will fight federal overreach at every turn,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Twitter.

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The appeals court decision means the abortion law is reinstated pending further legal actions. In his earlier decision, Pitman referred to the law as an “offensive deprivation” of the constitutional right to an abortion.

Paxton told Fox News earlier Friday that he expected the appeal to succeed. The Texas attorney general said one of the strongest arguments in its favor was that the law “was passed by the elected representatives of the state of Texas.”

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The ban, also known as Senate Bill 8, was originally signed into law in May.

The law outlaws abortions once medical professionals can detect a fetal heartbeat, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant. The law allows citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone suspected of helping a woman obtain an abortion.

The change by the appeals court comes two days after the lower court judge, who was appointed by former President Obama, penned a scathing takedown of the Texas law.

The ruling came on Wednesday, halting the enforcement of the law that allows private citizens to sue anyone involved in an abortion that takes place after six weeks of pregnancy, The New York Times reported.

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A federal judge on Wednesday granted the Justice Department’s request to halt enforcement of the recently passed Texas law that bans nearly all abortions in the state while the legal battle over the statute makes its way through the federal courts.

In his 113-page ruling, Robert L. Pitman, a Federal District Court judge in Austin, sided with the Biden administration, which had sued to halt a law that has changed the landscape of the abortion fight and further fueled the national debate over whether abortion will remain legal across the country.

Judge Pitman used sharp language to criticize the law, known as Senate Bill 8, which was drafted to make it difficult to challenge in court by delegating enforcement to private individuals, who can sue anyone who performs abortions or “aids and abets” them.

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their own lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” he said in his decision.

“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” he said.

But the law is written in such a way that extends even if the law is blocked, as it has been, to allow punishment retroactively for any abortion performed during the injunction.

“S.B. 8 says if an injunction is dismissed, you are still accountable for abortions you did while you were protected by that injunction,” said John Seago, the legislative director for Texas Right to Life, said.

“I don’t think anything changes today, tomorrow or even next week or next month. Until the U.S. Supreme Court says stop, I think the clinics in Texas will probably still stand guard,” Constitutional Law Professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston Josh Blackman said to KXAN.

“So, let’s say a court today puts it on hold, and the Court of Appeals puts it back in place [Thursday]. If an abortion were performed [Wednesday] evening, that could be the basis for a $10,000 judgment,” he said.

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“Though the court’s ruling offers a sigh of relief, the threat of Texas’ abortion ban still looms over the state as cases continue to move through the courts. We already know the politicians behind this law will stop at nothing until they’ve banned abortion entirely,” Brigitte Amiri, the deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said. “This fight is far from over, and we’re ready to do everything we can to make sure every person can get the abortion care they need regardless of where they live or how much they make.”

“This injunction is a critical first step in restoring abortion rights and services in Texas. For 36 days, patients have been living in a state of panic, not knowing where or when they’d be able to get abortion care. The clinics and doctors we represent hope to resume full abortion services as soon as they are able, even though the threat of being sued retroactively will not be completely gone until SB 8 is struck down for good. The cruelty of this law is endless,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said.

“Texas Democrats are celebrating the news of a temporary injunction to Abbott’s dystopian abortion ban. This ban is uniquely harmful, exceptionally cruel, and blatantly unconstitutional — and since this ban took effect, people across our state are facing unconscionable obstacles to important health care and gutted access to their constitutional rights. I’m incredibly grateful to the federal government for stepping in, doing the right thing, and suing Texas’ Republican government to block this ban,” Texas Democratic Party Co-Executive Director Hannah Roe Beck said.

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