UPDATE (10/18/21): The Biden administration’s Justice Department officially asked the Supreme Court to block the controversial Texas abortion law Monday, after a judge order pausing enforcement of the law only lasted 48 hours.
In its plea to the court, the Department wrote the law defies past Supreme Court rulings “by banning abortion long before viability — indeed, before many women even realize they are pregnant”.
“The question now is whether Texas’ nullification of this Court’s precedents should be allowed to continue while the courts consider the United States’ suit,” the department wrote. “As the district court recognized, it should not”.
The administration also noted the court could do a full review of the Texas law and rule on its constitutionality this term. This, despite the fact that not even lower courts have done that yet, and the Supreme Court rarely steps in this early in a lawsuit.
UPDATE (10/15/21): A day after a successful appeal to a judge order block the controversial Texas abortion law, the Biden administration announced it will ask the Supreme Court to halt the law. Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley did not say how quickly this would happen. The court has already allowed the law’s restrictions to take effect once, but did so without ruling on the law’s constitutionality.
It comes after a federal appeals panel in New Orleans allowed the restrictions to remain in place for a third time in the last several weeks alone.
Original Story (10/7/21): A federal judge in Texas ordered the state to suspend its newly-enacted abortion law Wednesday night. The video above shows the White House’s response to the order.
The temporary measure prevents state court judges and clerks from accepting lawsuits. The order is the first legal blow to Senate Bill 8, which until now had withstood a wave of early challenges.
“In reaching the conclusion that a preliminary injunction is necessary here, the Court has attempted to carefully and thoughtfully weigh the important interests of the parties in this case and be mindful of the larger principles at play,” U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman wrote in his 113-page order. “This case is exceptional because it is the rare intersection where the United States has standing and a cause of action to vindicate its citizens’ rights.”
The judge took specific issue with the enforcement of the Texas abortion law, which grants powers to private citizens. They can earn up to $10,000 in damages if they bring successful lawsuits against abortion providers who violate the law. Pittman called this “an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme”.
“Rather than subjecting its law to judicial review under the Constitution, the State deliberately circumvented the traditional process,” Pittman wrote. “It drafted the law with the intent to preclude review by federal courts that have the obligation to safeguard the very rights the statute likely violates.”
Even though the judge put the law on hold, abortion services in Texas might not immediately resume. Doctors may withhold treatment, fearing that they could later face litigation without a more permanent legal decision. Planned Parenthood said it was hopeful the order would allow clinics to resume abortion services as soon as possible.
“It’s been 36 days since Texas deprived its citizens of their constitutional right to abortion. The relief granted by the court today is overdue,” Planned Parenthood said in a tweet Wednesday night. “We will continue fighting this ban in court, until we are certain that Texans’ ability to access abortion is protected.”
Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, said the order was not unexpected.
“These activist judges will create their conclusion first: that abortion is a so-called constitutional right and then work backwards from there,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the group.
Texas officials quickly responded, telling the court they will seek a reversal from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A judge in that court had previously allowed the Texas abortion law to take effect.