A Federal Judge Issues a Preliminary Injunction for Texas SB 8 Abortion Law 

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction for Texas’ controversial new abortion law, in accordance with an emergency request from the Justice Department, according to published reports.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sought the preliminary injunction just days after it sued Texas over the state’s new abortion law that the DOJ  deemed “unconstitutional” in their motion to the court.  S.B. 8 prohibits almost all abortions in the state after about six weeks of pregnancy before most people even realize they are pregnant, the DOJ argued. The law also applies in cases of rape, sexual abuse, and incest, NPR reported.

“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,”  United States District Judge Robert Pitman announced on Wednesday during the 113-page ruling of the ban, CNN reported.

Judge Pittman added: “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.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a press conference last month that the law deputizes private citizens “to serve as bounty hunters authorized to recover at least $10,000 per claim from individuals who facilitate a woman’s exercise of her constitutional rights,” NPR previously reported.

After the S.B. 8 law went into effect on September 1, many abortion providers had to cease providing services, leaving many woman traveling out of state to seek abortions with the impact being felt nationwide, CNN previously reported. 

Planned Parenthood said clinics in neighboring states saw a surge in patients from the Texas area, with New Mexico one of the states that saw a 67% surge, according to CNN. Planned Parenthood clinics in Nevada had a 17-day waiting period for an abortion appointment, and in Colorado, a waiting period of between seven and 16 days, the news outlet reported. 

The judge’s order was “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, NPR reported.

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

It is unclear how long the preliminary injunction will be in effect; however, according to CNN, Texas has already filed notice that it will appeal Judge Pitman’s ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeals court previously rejected a request from clinics to block the law, as did the Supreme Court, CNN reported.

Texas has defended the constitutionality of SB 8, and had urged the court to deny the federal government’s motion and dismiss the case, a report said.

Last month, the DOJ filed its lawsuit against Texas arguing that the bill violates the Supremacy Clause as well as the equal protection afforded under the 14th Amendment, as reported by NPR. The DOJ filing also says the bill violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the news outlet reported.

Judge Pitman, in his order, aimed to get around the bill’s novel means of enforcement that allows private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, and to collect at least $10,000 in damages if they prevail in court, CNN reported. 

The anti-abortion rights group The Texas Right to Life called Judge Pitman’s decision “wildly broad” and said in a statement, “We are confident that the Texas Heartbeat Act will ultimately withstand this legal challenge and succeed where other states’ heartbeat bills have not,” according to CNN.

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

 

 

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