A U.S. federal appeals court has quickly allowed Texas to resume banning most abortions, just a day after clinics began running to see patients again for the first time since early September.
- The court ruling reinstates the ban on abortions once a heartbeat has been recorded
- Judge Robert Pitman suspended the law on Wednesday, calling it a “deprivation” of the right to abortion
- Doctors are reluctant to have abortions after repentance, for fear that it would be overturned
A unilateral ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the country’s strictest abortion law, which bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks.
It makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
“Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics that had briefly resumed normal abortion services.
She called on the US Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness”.
The clinics had been preparing for that appeal court in New Orleans to act quickly after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, appointed by President Barack Obama, suspended the Texas law, which he called an “offensive deprivation” of the constitutional right to an abortion. Wednesday.
Knowing that the order might not last long, a handful of Texas clinics immediately began performing abortions again over six weeks and booked new appointments for this weekend.
But it took nearly 48 hours before the Court of Appeals accepted the Texas request to overturn Mr. Pitman’s decision, pending further arguments.
That gave the Biden administration, which had filed the lawsuit, until Tuesday to respond.
“Big news tonight,” tweeted Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Texas had about two dozen abortion clinics before the law went into effect on September 1st.
During the short period when the law was on hold, many doctors in Texas were reluctant to perform abortions, fearing it could still leave them in legal danger.
The new law threatens Texas abortion providers with lawsuits from private citizens who have the right to charge at least $ 10,000 ($ 13,700) in compensation if successful.
The new approach to enforcement is why Texas had been able to evade an earlier wave of legal challenges prior to this week.
The circuit board had already once allowed the law to take effect in September, and came into force at this time only hours after Paxton’s office urged them to act.
His office told the court that since the state does not enforce the law, it cannot “be held accountable for filing private citizens that Texas is powerless to prevent.”
It is unclear how many abortions Texas clinics performed in the short time the law was put on hold.
By Thursday, at least six abortion providers had resumed normal services or were preparing to do so, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Before Pitman’s 113-page ruling, other courts had refused to stop the law banning abortions until some women even know they are pregnant.
That includes the Supreme Court, which allowed it to move forward in September without ruling on its constitution.
Abortion clinics in danger of closing
One of the first providers to resume normal services this week was Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, said her clinics called in some patients early Thursday who were on a list if the law was blocked at some point.
Other appointments were being planned for the coming days and telephone lines were busy again.
However, some of the clinics’ 17 doctors still refused to perform abortions because of the legal risk.
Pitman’s ruling had constituted the first legal blow to the law known as Senate Bill 8.
In the weeks when the restrictions took effect, abortion providers in Texas said the impact had been “exactly what we feared”.
Planned Parenthood says the number of patients from Texas at its state clinics fell by nearly 80 percent in the two weeks after the law went into effect.
Some providers have said that Texas clinics are now in danger of closing, while neighboring states are struggling to keep up with an increase in patients having to drive hundreds of miles for an abortion.
Other women, they say, are being forced to lead pregnancy to term.
The number of abortions performed in Texas since the law came into force is unknown.
State health officials say additional reporting requirements under the law will only make September data available on its website early next year.
A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling barred states from banning abortion before viability, the time a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks’ gestation.
But the Texas version has so far overmaneuvered the courts because it leaves enforcement to private citizens to sue, not prosecutors, which critics say amounts to a bounty.
AP / ABC