In a challenge initiated by the Biden administration, a federal court selected by former President Barack Obama stopped Texas’ new pro-life statute by imposing a preliminary injunction Wednesday evening, Oct. 6.
Judge Robert Pitman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas has temporarily barred the State of Texas, including “its officers, officials, agents, employees, and any other persons or entities acting on its behalf,” from enforcing S.B.8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act.
“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established. Fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the state contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that,” U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman, of the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, wrote in a 113-page ruling.
He decided that Texas had broken the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision upholding the right to abortion, and ordered the state to stop enforcing the legislation, Fox News reported.
The Texas Heartbeat Act went into effect on Sept. 1 after being enacted by the Texas legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in May. The law effectively prohibits abortion in Texas once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually after six weeks of pregnancy.
Texas is the first state to pass an abortion bill of this nature. The law differs from previous attempts in that it allows anybody to sue any abortion practitioner who kills an unborn child after six weeks of pregnancy, as well as anyone who supports or abets an illegal abortion. The individual being sued must pay at least $10,000 to the person who is filing the lawsuit for each illegal abortion they perform or assist with.
On Sept. 1, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the law should not be blocked while legal challenges are being heard in lower courts. According to Breitbart News, a small majority of justices held that the abortion-provider plaintiffs failed to reach the high threshold required for the Supreme Court to issue an injunction stopping legislation before it takes effect.
Texan officials are likely to seek to appeal the ruling in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court has previously ruled in favor of the law, which leads many to believe it would do so again if given a chance.
If the appeals court overturns Pitman’s decision, the case could be brought up by the U.S. Supreme Court.