AUSTIN – A federal judge late Wednesday temporarily blocked enforcement of a Texas abortion law that effectively bans the procedure, delivering an early victory to the Biden administration in its legal challenge to the law. 

In a 113-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin said the law is an “offensive deprivation of such an important right” and said state actors, including judges and court clerks, can no longer enforce its provisions.

“From the moment (the law) went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” Pitman wrote.

Republican governor. Greg Abbott signed the legislation, known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, into law in May — forcing the issue of reproductive rights back into the political spotlight. The law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many people realize they are pregnant. Incest or rape cases are exempt from the law. 

The legislation will restrict Texas abortion providers to 85%, according to the Abortion Providers. The law is one of the most direct challenges on the boundaries of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Federal courts have blocked similar six-week abortion laws from Georgia and Kentucky, as well as other states.

But last month, the Supreme Court left the law to take effect. Over the objections of three liberal associate justices and Chief Justice John Roberts, the high court declined to block enforcement of the law in a 5-4 ruling.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the decision “stunning,” in a dissenting opinion joined by Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. 

An explainer:The Texas law banning abortions after detecting a heartbeat

Continue reading:Texas’ abortion ban is the reason that Biden Administration has sued Texas. Next steps? Is the Supreme Court going to take this up?

Despite a federal court temporarily blocking enforcement Wednesday, the fight over the law — and abortion broadly — is far from over. Texas is likely to appeal the decision, and the legal fight could once again come before the U.S. Supreme Court depending on the ruling from an appeals court. 

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement the decision “is a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.”

“It is our foremost responsibility as a Department of Justice, to defend the Constitution,” said he. “We will continue to protect constitutional rights against all who would seek to undermine them.”

The White House released a statement praising the decision. Jen Psaki (Press Secretary) called it “an important milestone in restoring the constitutional rights to women throughout Texas.”

“The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women’s rights are currently under attack,” Psaki said. “That’s why the President supports codifying Roe v. Wade, why he has directed a whole-of-government response to S.B. 8. He will remain side-by-side to women all over the country in order to preserve their constitutional rights.

The law’s controversy has made abortion a hot topic ahead of the 2022 elections, when control of Congress is up for grabs. The U.S. House passed legislation codifying abortion rights in response to Texas’s law late last month. But, due to the 50-50 split in Congress, it is not clear how the bill will fare in the U.S. Senate. The bill, according to experts, could prove problematic for Republicans. Public opinion polls indicate that most Americans agree with the legislation. 

Last weekend protestors in cities throughout the nation gathered to call for an end to this restrictive law. In Washington, D.C., a crowd of protesters gathered Saturday around a banner proclaiming “Bans off our bodies!” As Cyndi Lauper’s song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, was blared from speakers, In Texas, Democrat Mike Collier, who is running for lieutenant governor, joined protesters, tweeting “men need to shut up, sit down, and listen.”

It remains to be seen exactly how Pitman’s order will affect the availability of abortion in the state. The law could be amended to make abortion providers liable for the procedures they perform while it is being drafted.

The preliminary injunction, which was issued Wednesday, prohibits state judges and court clerks from accepting lawsuits that are sanctioned under the ban. It also requires that the state publish a copy on public-facing court sites “with an easily understood instruction to the general public that S.B. Texas courts will reject 8 cases.

Pitman stated that “people seeking abortions will face irreparable damage when they are not able to access abortions”. Pitman also wrote that temporarily blocking Texas law’s implementation would allow for abortions “at least for a small subset” of the affected.

Numerous major state abortion providers have stopped offering services that might be considered in violation of the law. They cited the high cost associated with successful litigation as a reason for their decision.

After the ruling Wednesday, Nancy Northup, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that the clinics represented by her organization planned to resume operations soon, “even though the threat of being sued retroactively will not be completely gone until SB 8 is struck down for good.”

She stated in a statement that “the cruelty of this law was endless.”

The Texas law was different from other restrictive abortion laws because instead of relying on officials to enforce it, private citizens were allowed to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in “aiding and abetting” abortions.

This would include driving someone to an abortion center, and other circumstances. According to law, anyone who wins a lawsuit is entitled to $10,000 

All across the nation, protests:Nationally, hundreds of marches are held as protesters condemn the ‘unprecedented attack on reproductive rights’

Continue reading:Texas doctor breaks new law to perform abortions beyond six weeks.

Abortion rights advocates say the law is written in a way to prevent federal courts from striking it down, in part because it’s hard to know whom to sue.

Already, at least two lawsuits have been filed since the bill was made law. After he wrote an opinion piece in Texas, a Texas doctor became the subject of one suit. The Washington PostHe stated that he performed an abortion Sept. 6th, five days after the law was in effect. 

“I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested,” Dr. Alan Braid of San Antonio said in the piece. 

The Department of Justice said last month it would protect people’s access to abortion in Texas despite the law and joined a lawsuit aiming to block the law. The Justice Department asked for an emergency court order blocking enforcement because Texas had “devised an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge (the law) in federal court,” the filing said. 

Garland issued a statement at the time saying the Justice Department would “continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement” of a law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

Garland stated that the department would provide federal law enforcement support to an abortion clinic, or other reproductive health center under threat. “We have reached out to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities.”

Mekelburg reported out of Austin. Hayes reported out of Los Angeles

Contributing: Mabinty Quarshie and Courtney Subramanian and Savannah Behrmann

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