A federal court on Friday evening issued a ruling allowing a Texas state law, which restricts abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, to take effect again amid an ongoing court fight.Texas Heartbeat Law Temporarily Reinstated Amid Legal Fight| National Catholic Register
Jonah McKeown/CNANationOctober 9, 2021
A federal court on Friday evening issued a ruling allowing a Texas state law, which restricts abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, to take effect again amid an ongoing court fight.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Oct. 8, reversing an Oct. 6 decision by a lower court. At least six Texas abortion businesses had resumed performing abortions after the Oct. 6 ruling, The New York Times reported, drawing strong criticism from pro-life groups.
Texas’ law, which is designed to be enforced through private lawsuits, prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected — around six-weeks gestation — except in medical emergencies.
The law, which first took effect Sept. 1, allows for awards of at least $10,000 for successful lawsuits against those who perform or “aid and abet” illegal abortions; women seeking abortions cannot be sued under the law.
The Oct. 6 ruling had barred Texas from actions such as awarding damages to successful lawsuits or enforcing judgments in such cases. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed that ruling.
In early September the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion providers challenging the law had not made a sufficient case for relief from it and declined to block the law in a 5-4 decision.
President Joe Biden, a Catholic, called the law “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights” and promised a “whole-of-government” effort to maintain abortion in Texas.
He directed federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to review what actions could be taken “to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”
As a result of Biden’s directive, the Justice Department said it “urgently explores all options to challenge” Texas’ new law in order to “protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Sept. 6 statement.
In a legal complaint filed in a federal district court Sept. 9, the Justice Department argued the state acted “in open defiance of the Constitution” in restricting “most pre-viability abortions” and requested a preliminary injunction to block the law.
Pro-life leaders have pointed out that the Texas Legislature recently increased public benefits for low-income mothers, expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers and funding the Alternatives to Abortion program.
In late September, two non-Texas residents sued a Texas abortion doctor who announced he had performed an abortion in violation of the new law. A Texas pro-life group criticized those lawsuits, however, calling them “imprudent” and “self-serving,” since neither were filed for pro-life reasons.