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Appeals Court Puts Temporary Hold on Judge’s Order to Block Texas Abortion Ban

On Friday night, a federal appeals court placed a temporary hold on a federal judge’s order to block Texas’ SB8, an extreme, near-total abortion ban enacted last month.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted Texas’ administrative stay request, after Judge Robert Pitman ruled to block the law last week, responding to a request from the US Justice Department.

This Texas law was designed to be challenging to block in court, as it relies on a “vigilante justice” structure, deputizing private citizens to sue providers and anyone who helps someone access abortion care after six weeks of pregnancy. 

After Pitman issued his order on Thursday, some Texas clinics, including Whole Woman’s Health centers, resumed providing abortion care to patients who were past the 6-week mark of their pregnancy. Because the Texas law allows enforcement for abortions provided while a court order blocking the law is in effect if the court order is later reversed, providers at these clinics face legal risk for continuing to provide care. 

Judge Pitman said in his ruling, “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.”

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that “the Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness.”

“It’s unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas,” she said. “Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear, and this cruel law is falling hardest on those who already face discriminatory obstacles in health care, especially Black Indigenous, and other people of color, undocumented immigrants, young people, those struggling to make ends meet, and those in rural areas.”

Sources: CNN 10/8/21; USA Today 10/9/21

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