A U.S. federal judge has temporarily blocked an almost total ban on abortion in Texas, the toughest such law in the United States, following a challenge from President Joe Biden’s administration after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to continue.
- The Biden administration says the Texas law is unconstitutional and improperly disrupts federal government operations
- A Texas attorney general said the Justice Department’s arguments were inflammatory and full of hyperbole
- American conservatives have long sought to overthrow the 1973 Roe v Wade precedent that affirms a woman’s right to seek abortion
The action by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin is preventing the state from enforcing the Republican-backed law that bans women from having an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy while lawsuits over its legality continue.
The case is part of a fierce legal battle over abortion access in the United States, where many states are pursuing restrictions.
“This court will not punish another day for this offensive deprivation of such an important court,” Judge Pitman said in his ruling.
The ink was barely dry on Judge Pitman’s order before Texas announced to the court that it intended to appeal the ruling to the Conservative-leaning appellate court for fifth constituencies and set the stage for the next phase of the legal battle.
“Tonight’s ruling is an important step forward in restoring women’s constitutional rights throughout Texas,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said late Wednesday.
“The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women’s rights are currently under attack,” she added.
President Biden’s Department of Justice sued Texas on Sept. 9 and sought a temporary injunction against the law during arguments during a Oct. 1 hearing that the measure violated the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court on September 1 allowed the new law to take effect by a 5-4 vote driven by conservative judges.
This law makes no exceptions for pregnancy caused by rape or incest.
It also allows ordinary citizens to enforce the ban and rewards them with at least $ 10,000 if they successfully sue someone who helped give an abortion after fetal heart activity is detected.
Critics of the law have said that this provision allows people to act as bounty hunters against abortion.
The Department of Justice argued that the law prevented women from exercising their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, which was recognized in the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade ruling of 1973, which legalized abortion nationwide.
The department also argued that the law wrongly disrupted the federal government’s operations to provide abortion-related services.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the verdict as a “victory for women in Texas.”
Sexual health care provider Planned Parenthood said the preliminary injunction meant lawsuits brought under the new law could not be accepted by Texas courts.
“The relief the court has given today is too late and we are grateful that the Department of Justice went quickly to seek it,” Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has defended the legality of the state’s new abortion law with this office in a statement: “The most valuable freedom is life itself.”
Judge Pitman heard about three hours of arguments for the Justice Department’s request.
Justice Department lawyer Brian Netter called the law an “unprecedented system of vigilante justice” to be cracked down on.
Will Thompson, a lawyer in the Texas Attorney-General’s Office, countered the department’s arguments, saying there were plenty of opportunities for people in Texas to challenge the law on their own.
Sir. Thompson said the Justice Department’s arguments were riddled with “hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric.”
American conservatives have long sought to overthrow Roe v Wade.
On Dec. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court is due to hear arguments in a separate case over a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Mississippi has asked the US Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 precedent.