On Wednesday, a federal judge granted an emergency request from the Justice Department and blocked enforcement of Texas’s SB8, a law banning abortion after six weeks.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman said in his ruling that since SB8 went into effect in September, “women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution…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.”
Judge Pitman’s ruling blocks enforcement of SB8 temporarily, and it is not clear how long it will be in effect. The Attorney General of Texas has already announced that the state will appeal Pitman’s ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Many other states have passed similar near-total abortion bans, but federal judges have prevented those laws from taking effect. SB8 is the first 6-week ban to actually go into effect, and was designed specifically to avoid judicial review. Under SB8, private citizens have the power to sue anyone who aids and abets someone with accessing abortion care after six weeks.
“This is amazing! Finally, the justice we have been waiting for,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder and chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, which has clinics in Austin, Fort Worth, and McKinney. The providers of Whole Women’s Health in Texas were performing abortions up until midnight the day before the law went into effect.
“We do expect the state to appeal, and when they do, we will also be ready,” she said.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, “it is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution. We will continue to protect constitutional rights against all who would seek to undermine them.”
Sources: Washington Post 10/7/21; NPR 10/7/21; Feminist Newswire 9/1/21