U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman granted a Justice Department request, saying, “Ever since SB 8 took effect, women have been barred from exercising control over their lives in ways protected by the Constitution.” brought suit.
“What other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is their decision; this Court will not allow another day of this aggressive deprivation of such an important right.”
The judge’s order is a victory for abortion rights advocates, who saw other attempts to block the law hindered by the ban’s novel design. However, this may only be a temporary victory.
Pittman, in his order, aimed to get around the novel enforcement plan—which, its proponents claimed, was put in place to complicate the legal path abortion rights advocates typically obtain to obtain court orders blocking extreme laws. to take.
Rather than task government officials to enforce the ban, the Texas Legislature appointed private citizens to bring state court litigation against any clinics that performed abortions. Those who assist a person in obtaining an abortion who violates the ban can also be targeted with state court litigation under the law, which threatens damages of at least $10,000.
“While knowing full well that it would be unconstitutional to deprive its citizens of this right by direct State action, the State drew up an unprecedented and transparent statutory plan to do so,” the judge wrote on Wednesday.
Pittman’s order prohibits any state official — including state court judges and court clerks — from enforcing the ban. It expressly mandates those officers to “accept or docket, retain, hear, resolve, award damages, enforce judgments, impose any administrative penalty, and administer any suit” brought under state law. “Restricts from. The judge also ordered the state to take proactive steps to notify the court authorities as well as private individuals, who are seeking enforcement of the ban, that the law is currently blocked under his order.
Pittman said in his order Wednesday that “despite the Texas Attorney General’s lack of clarity as to what the state would do in the event of a preliminary injunction, this Court is confident that the state will identify the right state officials, officers, judges, clerks and . Employees should follow this order.”
Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that advocated for the measure in the Texas Legislature, called it “extremely pervasive” and “astonishing” in its attempt to obstruct state judges and court clerks from performing their legitimate duties. ” said.
“Unless a High Court intervenes, the depressing reality is that the Pittman ruling will prevent the Texas Heartbeat Act from coming into force,” the organization said in the statement.
It took Texas just over an hour to indicate on the court docket that it would appeal the order in the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals. This appeals court – perhaps the most conservative in the country – had previously rejected a request from clinics that it block the law, as did the US Supreme Court.
In a recent court filing, Whole Women’s Health, the organization that runs several clinics in the state, said it would resume providing abortions after six weeks if the judge issued an order blocking the law.
Doing so would still present a legal risk to clinics, as Texas law states that clinics are liable for abortions if an order blocking the law is later reversed by a high court, while the law temporarily was blocked from
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, “While the fight is not over, we expect a court order to block SB8, allowing Texas abortion providers to resume services as soon as possible.” will be allowed to start with.” statement after hearing
Texas law prohibits abortion after fetal heart activity is detected—usually around six weeks into the pregnancy—and often after a woman finds out she is pregnant. It took effect on 1 September after the Supreme Court denied an emergency request to block it.
Garland celebrated the decision Wednesday, saying in a statement that “today’s decision to join Texas law is a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.”
“It is the Department of Justice’s greatest responsibility to protect the Constitution,” the attorney general continued. “We will continue to defend constitutional rights against anyone who seeks to undermine them.”
In a court filing on behalf of Whole Women’s Health, its president said that 56% of patients who showed up to their Texas clinics before six weeks into their pregnancy or who weren’t sure how far along they were, turned 56% away. Because nonetheless fetal cardiac activity was detected.
This story has been updated with additional development on Wednesday.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.