Just one day after clinics started racing to provide patients, a federal appeals court allowed Texas to rescind its ban on abortions.
The 5th U.S. issued a one-page order. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday restored the nation’s strictest abortion law. It prohibits abortion once cardiac activity has been detected. This is usually within six weeks. does not make exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in Texas, stated that patients are being “thrown back into chaos and fear”.
She urged the U.S. Supreme Court “to step in and stop this madness.”
The New Orleans-based appeals court was quick to act after U.S. District judge Robert Pitman, a nominee of President Barack Obama, suspended the Texas law he described as an “offensive deprived” of the constitutional right of an abortion. A handful of Texas clinics booked new appointments for the weekend knowing that this order would not last.
It was only 48 hours before Texas requested that Pitman’s ruling be rescinded by the appeals court. This, at least for now, pending further arguments. It gave the Biden administration , which brought the lawsuit to Tuesday for its response.
“Great news tonight,” tweeted Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “I will fight federal excess at every turn.”
Before the Sept. 1 law, Texas had approximately two dozen abortion clinics. Many Texas doctors refused to perform abortions during the temporary suspension of the law. They were afraid that they could be in legal trouble if they did so.
Texas abortion providers are now at risk of being sued by private citizens. If successful, they can collect damages up to $10,000. This innovative approach to enforcement is why Texas was able to avoid an earlier wave legal challenges.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had previously allowed the law to go into effect in September and acted only hours after Paxton’s office urged them.
His office informed the court, that the state doesn’t enforce the law and cannot be held responsible for filings by private citizens Texas is unable to stop.
It is not clear how many Texas abortion clinics performed during the suspension of the law. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, at least six providers of abortions had resumed their normal services on Thursday or were preparing to do so.
Before Pitman’s bruising 113-page order , other courts declined to block the law. It bans abortion before many women even know they are pregnant. This includes the Supreme Court which allowed it to proceed in September without deciding on its constitutionality.
Whole Woman’s Health was one of the first providers to resume normal service this week. It operates four clinics in Texas.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, stated that her clinics called some patients on Thursday morning who were on a waiting list in the event of a law being blocked. The phone lines were busy again as other appointments were being made for the coming days. Despite the legal risk, some of the 17 doctors at the clinics were unwilling to perform abortions.
Pitman’s order was the first legal blow against the Senate Bill8 law. Texas abortion providers stated that the effect of the restrictions was “exactly as we feared” in the weeks following their implementation.
Planned Parenthood claims that the number of Texas patients at its Texas clinics has decreased by almost 80%. Some providers claim that Texas clinics could close while neighboring states struggle with an surge in patients, who have to drive hundreds of miles to get an abortion.
Others, they claim, are being forced into carrying pregnancies to the end.
It is not known how many abortions were performed in Texas since the law was implemented. Officials in the state health department say September data will not be available on their website until early next.
The 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibited states from prohibiting abortion before viability. This is the point at which a fetus can live outside of the womb. It occurs around 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Texas’s version of the law has outmaneuvered courts. It allows private citizens to file lawsuits and not prosecutors. Critics say this amounts to a bounty.
Kimberlyn Schwartz spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life (the state’s largest antiabortion group), and said, “This is an answer to prayer.”