A federal appeals court has sided against the Justice Department and allowed Texas’ abortion ban, the most restrictive in the nation, to stand.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled 2-1 Thursday against the Justice Department’s request to block the law known as Senate Bill 8 on the grounds of it being unconstitutional.
No reason for the court’s decision was given in its brief ruling.
“It’s outrageous but unsurprising that the Fifth Circuit has once again denied people in Texas their fundamental reproductive rights,” the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted after the ruling was announced. “Until it is stopped for good, this cruel ban will continue to wreak havoc, impacting marginalized communities the most.”
The controversial law went into effect Sept. 1 banning physicians from performing abortions once cardiac activity of the fetus is detected, which generally occurs at around the six-week mark of a pregnancy and before most know they are pregnant.
The ban is enforced by the public who are incentivized to sue through civil court anyone who performs, aids or abets an abortion.
Opponents have assailed the bill for being unconstitutional as it prevents pregnant people their constitutional right to an abortion while skirting judicial review by putting its enforcement in the hands of the public rather than in those of the state.
Since going into effect, the law has been making its way through the courts and is widely expected to end up before the justices of the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department had submitted its request to block the law on Tuesday after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a week earlier that it be reinstated following a lower court on Oct. 6 granting the Justice Department’s emergency request to halt the ban.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton celebrated the court’s Thursday ruling as “a victory for life!”
“The Fifth Circuit has ruled on our side — a testament that we are on the right side of the law and life,” he tweeted. “I’ll continue to fight back against the Biden administration’s lawless overreach.”
According to the sexual and reproductive health and rights organization the Guttmacher Institute, the Texas ban means those in the state requiring the medical procedure will have to drive more than 14 times farther to reach an abortion provider compared to before it went into effect.
“Texas has almost 7 million women aged 15-49, out of a total of 74 million in the entire country. That means Roe v. Wade is now effectively meaningless for one in 10 U.S. women of reproductive age,” it said, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
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The case in Texas is occurring as several other Republican-led states seek to pass or have passed laws to restrict abortion within their borders.
The Guttmacher Institute said that since January, there have been 561 abortion restrictions, including 165 abortion bans, introduced across 47 states, with 83 of them having been enacted.
“If this trend continues, 2021 will end up as the most damaging antiabortion state legislative session ever, it said.
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