In a challenge brought by President Joe Biden’s administration after the US Supreme Court had allowed it to go into effect, a federal judge temporarily blocked a near-total ban on abortion in Texas, the toughest such law in the United States, on Wednesday. The ruling by US District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin prevents the state from enforcing the Republican-backed law, which prohibits women from obtaining abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, while the legality of the law is being debated. The case is part of a ferocious legal battle in the United States over abortion access, with numerous states pursuing restrictions.
Biden’s Justice Department sued Texas on September 9 and sought a temporary restraining order against the law, claiming that the measure violates the US constitution during an October 1 hearing. On September 1, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow the law to go into effect, with conservative justices casting the deciding vote. Many women do not realize they are pregnant until they are six weeks pregnant. Pregnancies caused by rape or incest are not exempt from the law. It also allows ordinary citizens to enforce the ban, rewarding them with at least $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who assisted in the provision of abortion after the fetal cardiac activity is detected. Critics of the law claim that this provision allows people to act as anti-abortion activists.
“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” Pitman said in the ruling. The Justice Department claimed that the law prevents women from exercising their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, which was recognized in the Supreme Court’s Roe V. Wade decision in 1973, which legalized abortion nationwide. The department also claimed that the law improperly interferes with the federal government’s ability to provide abortion-related services.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has defended the state’s abortion law, saying in a statement: “The most precious freedom is life itself.”
Pitman listened to approximately three hours of arguments on the Justice Department’s request. The law, according to Justice Department attorney Brian Netter, is an “unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice” that must be repealed. Will Thompson, an attorney with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, refuted the department’s arguments, claiming that people in Texas had plenty of opportunities to challenge the law on their own. He called the department’s arguments “hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric.”