Earlier this week, the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit set aside an Austin, Texas federal judge’s order blocking enforcement of the law made after the Justice Department sued to block it.
The judge, Robert Pittman, had written that he would “not sanction one more day” with the law in effect. The law, known as Texas Senate Bill 8, allows private citizens to sue anyone who participates in helping a woman terminate a pregnancy after a foetal heartbeat is detected. Such a milestone can come as soon as six weeks into the pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant in the first place.
Judge Pittman called the law, which makes no exceptions for women who have been raped or those who are victims of incest, an “offensive deprivation of… an important right” and “flagrantly unconstitutional”.
Two thirds of a three-judge 5th Circuit panel — one nominated to the bench by former President Donald Trump and one appointed by George W Bush – voted to set aside Judge Pittman’s ruling and ordered a 6 December hearing on the matter. The third judge, a Bill Clinton appointee, dissented from the decision.
The law went into effect on 1 September after the Supreme Court declined to block it from being enforced in a different case. But Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley said the agency would ask the court to suspend its’ enforcement in this case.
“The Justice Department intends to ask the Supreme Court to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay of the preliminary injunction against Texas Senate Bill 8,” he said.
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