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Texas Abortion Ban Reinstated by Appeals Court Following Brief Suspension

October 11, 2021 by Reece Nations
In this July 9, 2019 photo, people wait in line to enter the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Just days after a preliminary injunction allowed health care providers to resume performing abortions, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily restored a Texas law banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.

The ruling came two short days after a temporary order from U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman prevented the law’s enforcement. Now, with the law going back into effect, the Department of Justice has until Tuesday evening to respond to the latest ruling.

“Texas Democrats continue to urge Congress to codify Roe v. Wade and ensure abortion rights are finally, fully protected for all Americans,” Texas Democratic Party Co-Executive Director Hannah Roe Beck said in a written statement. 

“In 2021, it’s an outrage that a handful of conservative politicians are still meddling in our right to make the most important, intimate decisions about our lives. Advocates have been fighting tooth and nail to protect Texans’ right to access abortion, and Texas Democrats — and people across Texas and around the country — have been rising up alongside them. We will not go back.”

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas claiming violations of the 14th Amendment after the Supreme Court broke precedent by denying injunctive relief when the case was brought before it. The appeals court asserted in its ruling the district court lacked the jurisdiction to halt the law’s enforcement and that Texas is likely to prevail on the appeal.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court maintained that the applicants were not entitled to injunctive relief because it “cannot expunge the law itself” and that an injunction “would utterly fail to prevent any of the harm they claim will occur once Texas Senate Bill 8 becomes effective.”

Texas Right to Life Director of Media and Communication Kimberlyn Schwartz praised the appeals court’s ruling in a written statement, calling it an “answered prayer.”

“We’re grateful that this tremendous impact will continue,” Schwartz said. “We expect the Biden administration to appeal to the Supreme Court of the U.S., and we are confident Texas will continue to defeat these attacks on our life-saving efforts.”

Texas’ abortion ban has proven to be difficult to strike down because it leaves enforcement of the restrictions to private citizens through the civil court system instead of the state Attorney General’s office or other state officials. Weeks after the law’s enactment in May, TWN reported clinics across the country saw an influx of women traveling from Texas to get abortions.

In September, TWN reported House Democrats sought to codify the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by passing the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” a bill intended to guarantee the right to an abortion regardless of state laws on the matter. The bill passed in a 218-211 vote along party lines, but faced an uncertain path forward in the narrowly divided Senate.

“The Fifth Circuit has failed again to preserve a critical right that has long existed in the United States,” Adriana Piñon, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said in a written statement. “We’ve already seen the devastation caused by allowing this extremist law to exist for a few weeks. Texans are traveling hundreds of miles to access abortion care in overwhelmed clinics outside the state.”

Piñon continued, “People without the money to travel will be forced to continue with pregnancies they decided not to carry. That reality will especially impact communities of color. Black women have a maternal mortality rate three times that of White women, and this law will only make that worse. Abortion is critical health care, and no one should be denied safe and legal access to it.” 

Reece can be reached at [email protected].

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