NATIONAL NEWS

Judge orders Texas to suspend new law banning most abortions

Oct 7, 2021, 8:08 AM

The Texas Capitol is seen on the first day of the 87th Legislature's special session on July 8, 202...

The Texas Capitol is seen on the first day of the 87th Legislature's special session on July 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called the legislature into a special session, asking lawmakers to prioritize his agenda items that include overhauling the state's voting laws, bail reform, border security, social media censorship, and critical race theory. (Photo by Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge ordered Texas to suspend the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S., calling it an “offensive deprivation” of a constitutional right by banning most abortions in the nation’s second-most populous state since September.

The order Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman is the first legal blow to the Texas law known as Senate Bill 8, which until now had withstood a wave of early challenges. In the weeks since the restrictions took effect, Texas abortion providers say the impact has been “exactly what we feared.”

But abortion services in Texas might not instantly resume even with the law on hold because doctors still fear that they could be sued without a more permanent legal decision. Texas officials swiftly told the court of their intention to seek a reversal from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously allowed the restrictions to take effect. Planned Parenthood said it was hopeful the order would allow clinics to resume abortion services as soon as possible.

In a 113-page opinion, Pitman took Texas to task over the law, saying Republican lawmakers had “contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme” by leaving enforcement solely in the hands of private citizens, who are entitled to collect $10,000 in damages if they bring successful lawsuits against abortion providers who violate the restrictions.

The law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions once cardiac activity is detected, which is usually around six weeks, before some women even know they are pregnant.

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” wrote Pitman, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama.

“That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Biden administration, which has said the restrictions were enacted in defiance of the U.S. Constitution. Attorney General Merrick Garland called the order “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.”

The law had been in effect since Sept. 1.

“For more than a month now, Texans have been deprived of abortion access because of an unconstitutional law that never should have gone into effect. The relief granted by the court today is overdue, and we are grateful that the Department of Justice moved quickly to seek it,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, said the order was not unexpected.

“This is ultimately the legacy of Roe v. Wade, that you have activist judges bending over backwards, bending precedent, bending the law, in order to cater to the abortion industry,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the group. “These activist judges will create their conclusion first: that abortion is a so-called constitutional right and then work backwards from there.”

Abortion providers say their fears have become reality in the short time the law has been in effect. Planned Parenthood says the number of patients from Texas at its clinics in the state decreased by nearly 80% in the two weeks after the law took effect.

Some providers have said that Texas clinics are now in danger of closing while neighboring states struggle to keep up with a surge of patients who must drive hundreds of miles. Other women, they say, are being forced to carry pregnancies to term.

Other states, mostly in the South, have passed similar laws that ban abortion within the early weeks of pregnancy, all of which judges have blocked. A 1992 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court prevented states from banning abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

But Texas’ version had so far outmaneuvered the courts because it leaves enforcement to private citizens to file suits, not prosecutors, which critics say amounts to a bounty.

“This is not some kind of vigilante scheme,” said Will Thompson, counsel for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, while defending the law to Pitman last week. “This is a scheme that uses the normal, lawful process of justice in Texas.”

The Texas law is just one that has set up the biggest test of abortion rights in the U.S. in decades, and it is part of a broader push by Republicans nationwide to impose new restrictions on abortion.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court began a new term, which in December will include arguments in Mississippi’s bid to overturn 1973’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion.

Last month, the court did not rule on the constitutionality of the Texas law in allowing it to remain in place. But abortion providers took that 5-4 vote as an ominous sign about where the court might be heading on abortion after its conservative majority was fortified with three appointees of former President Donald Trump.

Ahead of the new Supreme Court term, Planned Parenthood on Friday released a report saying that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, 26 states are primed to ban abortion. This year alone, nearly 600 abortion restrictions have been introduced in statehouses nationwide, with more than 90 becoming law, according to Planned Parenthood.

Texas officials argued in court filings that even if the law were put on hold temporarily, providers could still face the threat of litigation over violations that might occur in the time between a permanent ruling.

At least one Texas abortion provider has admitted to violating the law and been sued — but not by abortion opponents. Former attorneys in Illinois and Arkansas say they sued a San Antonio doctor in hopes of getting a judge who would invalidate the law.

___

Associated Press writer Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Over 600 works of art were put on display in the Central Institute for Restoration’s offices, fro...

Barbie Latza Nadeau, CNN

US returns $80 million-worth of stolen artifacts to Italy

Over 600 stolen artifacts were put on display in Italy, from life-size bronze statues to tiny Roman coins.

2 hours ago

Chad Daybell leaning over and whispering to his lawyer, John Prior during his murder trial...

Mary Culbertson

What’s next in the triple murder trial of Chad Daybell as it nears end

As the trial for Chad Daybell nears its end, many questions will be answered soon. The timeline of events to expect will include possibility of the death penalty, jury deliberation, and another trial phase.

4 hours ago

A painting by Italian master Caravaggio entitled 'Ecce Homo' is pictured at the Prado museum in Mad...

Jack Guy, CNN

Lost Caravaggio goes on display after almost being sold at auction for just $1,600

A lost Caravaggio painting that was almost mistakenly sold at auction for a bargain price has gone on display in Madrid, Spain.

4 hours ago

A Spirit Airlines flight returned to Montego Bay, Jamaica after a suspected mechanical issue on its...

Amanda Jackson, Dave Alsup and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Spirit Airlines passengers told to prepare for possible water landing after mechanical issue

The cabin of a Spirit Airlines flight from Jamaica to Florida became a scene of panic and confusion Sunday when passengers were told to prepare for a possible water landing after the aircraft was turned around due to an apparent mechanical problem, a passenger told CNN.

5 hours ago

TEMPLE, TEXAS - MAY 23: Debris is strewn on the side of a road following a tornado on May 23, 2024 ...

John Seewer

23 are dead across the US after weekend tornadoes. Texas is getting battered again

Damaging winds and hail have pelted north Texas as much of the U.S. recovers from severe weather that killed at least 23 people during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

5 hours ago

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 21: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the end of the day during...

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Eric Tucker and Michelle L. Price

In Trump’s hush money trial, prosecutors and defense lawyers are poised to make final pitch to jury

Prosecutors and defense lawyers in Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial are set to deliver closing arguments.

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Judge orders Texas to suspend new law banning most abortions