In a ruling filled with harsh criticism of Texas lawmakers, a federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama has shelved the Texas “heartbeat” abortion law.
The law banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, which generally is when a fetal heartbeat can be heard.
Unlike other laws that have tried to ban abortions in this fashion, the Texas law relied upon private citizens to enforce the law by reporting violations by abortion providers through lawsuits aimed at the providers.
The law, known as S.B. 8, took effect on Sept. 1 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stop it. Multiple pro-abortion groups attacked the law, and the Biden administration’s Justice Department filed to have the law blocked.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman issued a preliminary injunction that forbids Texas state court judges and clerks to accept any suits under the law, Politico reported.
Texas immediately filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the ruling, Pitman emerges as a staunch supporter of abortion, beginning his ruling by declaiming that “A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established.”
He called the enforcement mechanism developed by Texas lawmakers “an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme.”
“Rather than subjecting its law to judicial review under the Constitution, the State deliberately circumvented the traditional process. 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,” Pitman wrote.
The ruling said the Texas law needed to be blocked so that abortions could proceed.
“People seeking abortions face irreparable harm when they are unable to access abortions; these individuals are entitled to access to abortions under the U.S. Constitution; S.B. 8 prevents access to abortion; a preliminary injunction will allow—at least for some subset of affected individuals—abortions to proceed that otherwise would not have,” Pitman wrote.
The judge also said an injunction to block the law while it is argued is necessary.
Pitman said that “if legislators know they cannot accomplish political agendas that curtail or eliminate constitutional rights and intentionally remove the legal remedy to challenge it, then other states are less likely to engage in copycat legislation.”
The judge closed by venting at Texas for passing the law and the U.S. Supreme Court for not blocking it earlier.
“Finally, the State has requested, in the event the Court preliminarily enjoins enforcement of S.B. 8, that the Court stay any injunction until the State has the opportunity to seek appellate review. The State has forfeited the right to any such accommodation by pursuing an unprecedented and aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right.
“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution. That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” he ruled.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, released a statement in response, saying: “The most precious freedom is life itself,” according to Reuters.
The Biden White House was thrilled with Pitman’s ruling.
“Tonight’s ruling is an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday in a statement. “The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women’s rights are currently under attack.”
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