Judge orders Texas to suspend new law banning most abortions

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A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Texas to suspend the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, which since September has banned most abortions in the country’s second most populous state.

The order from U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman is the first legal blow to Texas law known as Senate Bill 8, which so far has withstood a wave of early challenges.

In the weeks after the restrictions took effect, Texas abortion service providers said the impact had been “exactly what we feared.”

“From the time SB 8 came into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in a way that is constitutionally protected,” Judge Pitman wrote.

“It is up to other courts to find a way to avoid this conclusion; this Court will not sanction one more day this injurious deprivation of such an important right.

But even with the law pending, abortion services in Texas may not immediately resume because doctors still fear prosecution without a more permanent legal decision.

Texas officials are likely to seek a swift overturn from the U.S. 5th Court of Appeals, which previously allowed the restrictions to take effect.

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

To enforce the law, Texas has mandated private citizens to sue violators and entitled them to at least $ 10,000 (£ 7,360) in damages if successful.

First day of the Supreme Court
Activists protest outside the Supreme Court (J Scott Applewhite / AP)

The Biden administration argued that Texas attacked a woman’s constitutional right to abortion under GOP restrictions, which went into effect on September 1.

“A state cannot ban six week abortions. Texas knew it, but it still wanted a six-week ban, so the state resorted to an unprecedented self-defense justice system designed to scare abortion providers and others who could help women. to exercise their constitutional rights, ”Justice Department attorney Brian Netter said. federal court on Friday.

Abortion providers say their fears have come true in the short time the law came into effect. Planned Parenthood says the number of Texas patients at its state clinics declined by nearly 80% over the next two weeks.

Minneapolis Women's March
Anti-abortion counter-protesters (Shari L Gross / Star Tribune via AP)

Other states, mostly in the South, have passed similar laws banning abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, all of which judges have blocked. But the Texas version has so far defied the courts because it leaves the execution to private citizens to sue, not prosecutors, which critics say amounts to a bounty.

“It’s not some sort of self-defense ploy,” said Will Thompson, a law advocate for the Texas attorney general’s office. “This is a ploy that uses the normal and legal process of justice in Texas.”

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


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