US judge blocks enforcement of controversial new Texas abortion law

Updated October 6, 2021 at 10:50 p.m. ET

A federal judge has blocked enforcement of Texas’ controversial new abortion law, granting an emergency Department of Justice request.

The ministry applied for the preliminary injunction just days after having sued Texas for its new abortion law. Known as SB 8, the law prohibits almost all abortions in the state after about six weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape, sexual abuse, and incest.

In his 113-page decisionUS District Court Judge Robert Pitman said that from the time SB 8 came into effect last month, “women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in a way that is protected by the Constitution “.

He added: “[O]The courts can find a way to avoid this conclusion, it is for them to decide. This Court will not sanction this offensive deprivation of such an important right one more day. ”

US Attorney General Merrick Garland called the court ruling a “victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.”

“It is the primary responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution,” Garland said in a statement. “We will continue to protect constitutional rights against anyone who seeks to undermine them.”

Pitman’s decision temporarily blocks Texas law enforcement, and it’s unclear how long it will be in effect. Texas has already filed a notice saying it will appeal Pitman’s decision to the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals, with the state expected to seek an immediate circuit court stay on Wednesday’s order. .

The GM’s argument

The Justice Department filed its lawsuit against Texas last month, arguing that SB 8 is unconstitutional. He says the bill violates the supremacy clause as well as the equal protection offered under the 14th Amendment. He also says he violates US Supreme Court precedent.

It also targets the new means of enforcement of the bill: it allows individuals to bring civil suits against anyone who assists a woman to have an abortion and to collect at least $ 10,000 in damages if they prevail in court.

The ministry says the enforcement mechanism is truly an unconstitutional attempt to circumvent judicial oversight to prevent women and claimants from challenging the law in federal court.

Judge Pitman agreed to his ruling on Wednesday night.

“A person’s constitutional right to choose to have an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established,” he wrote. “Fully aware that to deny its citizens this right through direct state action would be blatantly unconstitutional, the state has developed an unprecedented and transparent legislative regime to do just that. ”

When announcing the department’s lawsuit, Garland warned that the Texas bill and its enforcement regime, if upheld, could serve as a model for other states to pass similar law to restrict abortion or to protect other rights constitutionally.

On this point, too, Pitman J. seemed to agree. He said that by stepping in and issuing an injunction now, he could avoid such a possibility.

“If this Court had not exercised its authority to grant relief to the United States, a number of states could pass legislation which deprives citizens of their constitutional rights, without legal recourse to challenge this deprivation, without fear that a federal court to seize an injunction ”, he wrote.

Texas defended the constitutionality of SB 8 and urged the court to dismiss the federal government’s motion and dismiss the case.

Reaction on both sides of the issue

In a statement, abortion rights group Texas Right to Life called Pitman’s decision “extremely broad,” but added, “We are confident that the Texas Heartbeat Act will ultimately stand up to this legal challenge and will succeed where heart rate bills in other states have not. ”

Abortion rights groups applauded the decision.

“While this fight is far from over,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement, “we hope the court order blocking SB 8 will allow Texas abortion providers to resume their services as soon as possible. ”

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