6-week abortion ban in Texas by federal judge

A federal judge on Wednesday blocked a law in Texas making abortion or abortion illegal after a fetus’s heartbeat was detected.

Justice Robert Pittman, appointed by former President Obama, sided with the Biden administration’s Justice Department, which sued the state, arguing that Texas law conflicts with women’s constitutional rights.

The move prevents the law, known as Senate Bill 8, from being enforced while litigation continues.

During oral arguments Friday, the Justice Department told the court that Texas law illegally repeals women’s constitutional rights.

The United States is very likely to succeed in the merits of its claims. It is highly likely that SB 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment,” the judge wrote.

The victory of pro-choice forces may be temporary.

At Friday’s hearing, a lawyer from the Texas Attorney General’s office said that if Judge Bateman issues an injunction against the law, the state will appeal to the Fifth U.S. Court of Appeals, which rejected an earlier effort by abortion providers to block the law.

State law prohibits abortion at about six weeks of pregnancy, which is when the fetus’s heartbeat is heard. But the Justice Department said a decades-old Supreme Court precedent gives women a constitutional right to have an abortion until the fetus is viable, which is usually between 24 to 28 weeks.

By law, state officials do not enforce abortion bans, but private citizens can sue if they know a provider illegally performed an abortion after a heartbeat was detected.

Judge Bateman’s ruling comes nearly a month after the law went into effect on September 1. The Supreme Court refused to block his age, leaving the law in place while litigation against him continues in lower courts.

Abortion providers initially challenged the law — before the Justice Department filed its separate lawsuit — and abortion providers asked the Supreme Court to intervene before a lower court could issue a ruling.

The judges refused to stay its implementation, and have not decided whether the law was constitutional, but the court noted that the abortion providers fighting it have sued defendants who are unlikely to enforce the law.

Abortion providers have sued state and local officials, but under SB 8, it would be private citizens to sue providers. Anyone who successfully sues someone who assists in an abortion after six weeks will get at least $10,000.

This case is currently pending before the Fifth US Court of Appeals.

Texas law banned most previous abortions, including rape or incest, a point of contention with choice advocates.

Since the Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that a woman has the right to an abortion in Roe v. Wade, pro-life advocates and conservative states have sought to overturn that ruling.

Texas is not alone in its latest attempt.

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks conflicts with its 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade during this period. The case will be heard in December, with a ruling expected in June.

Unlike the Texas case, lower courts prevented Mississippi law from becoming effective, but the Supreme Court agreed to review the move.

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