A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday temporarily blocked the state’s restrictive anti-abortion law that instituted a near-total ban on the procedure.
The order by US District Judge Robert Pitman halting the controversial law, known as Senate Bill 8, was handed down after a lawsuit brought by the Biden administration.
Pitman, in a 113-page opinion, said Republican lawmakers in the state had “contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme” to deny patients the right to an abortion, which was cemented in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
“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,” Pitman wrote.
The Texas law, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May, bans abortions once medical workers can detect a fetal heartbeat, which is usually around six weeks after conception — and before many women even know they’re pregnant.
It explicitly forbids criminal prosecutions but allows people to file lawsuits through which they can recover at least $10,000 in damages from anyone involved in performing an illegal abortion, including someone who merely drives a woman to undergo the procedure.
Texas officials are likely to seek a swift reversal from the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously allowed the restrictions to take effect.
The US Justice Department lawsuit is seeking to have the law declared invalid on grounds it was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution.”
“A state may not ban abortions at six weeks,” Justice Department attorney Brian Netter told the federal court Friday.
“Texas knew this, but it wanted a six-week ban anyway, so the state resorted to an unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice that was designed to scare abortion providers and others who might help women exercise their constitutional rights,” Netter said.
With Post wires
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