Court again lets Texas continue banning most abortions

FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2021 file photo people participate in the Houston Women's March against Texas abortion ban walk from Discovery Green to City Hall in Houston. A federal appeals court is temporarily allowing the nation’s toughest abortion law to resume in Texas. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down the order Friday, Oct. 8. (Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas can continue banning most abortions after a federal appeals court on Thursday rejected the Biden administration’s latest attempt to stop a novel law that has become the nation’s biggest curb to abortion in nearly 50 years.

The decision could push the law closer to returning to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has already once allowed the restrictions to take effect without ruling on its constitutionality. The Texas law bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks and before some women know they are pregnant.

Since the law took effect in early September, Texas women have sought out abortion clinics in neighboring states, some driving hours through the middle of the night and including patients as young as 12 years old. The law makes no exception in cases of rape or incest.

“We hope the Department of Justice urgently appeals this order to the Supreme Court to restore Texans’ ability to obtain abortion care after six weeks in pregnancy,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

The Justice Department did not immediately react to the decision and a spokesperson had no comment late Thursday.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Texas’ request to keep the law in place as the court case proceeds. It marks the third time the conservative-leaning appeals court has sided with Texas and let the restrictions stand.

The panel said it would expedite the appeal and schedule oral arguments, but did not say when.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office called the decision a “testament that we are on the right side of the law and life.”

It marks another setback for the Justice Department and Texas abortion providers in their efforts to derail the law, which has thus far prevailed because of a unique structure that leaves enforcement up to private citizens. Anyone who brings a successful lawsuit against an abortion provider for violating the law is entitled to claim at least $10,000 in damages, which the Biden administration says amounts to a bounty.

Despite numerous legal challenges both before and after the law took effect Sept. 1, only once has a court moved to put the restriction on hold — and that order only stood for 48 hours.

During that brief window, some Texas clinics rushed to perform abortions on patients past six weeks, but many more appointments were canceled after the 5th Circuit moved to swiftly reinstate the law last week.

Texas had roughly two dozen abortion clinics before the law took effect, and operators have said some may be forced to close if the restrictions stay in place for much longer.

Already the stakes are high in the coming months over the future of abortion rights in the U.S. In December, the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court will hear Mississippi’s bid to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion.

A 1992 decision by the Supreme Court prevented states from banning abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy. But Texas’ version has outmaneuvered courts so far due to the fact that it offloads enforcement to private citizens.

Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, set up a tipline to receive allegations against abortion providers but has not filed any lawsuits. Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman, said Thursday the group expected the Biden administration to go to the Supreme Court next and was “confident Texas will ultimately defeat these attacks on our life-saving efforts.”

On Wednesday, 18 state attorneys generals from mostly GOP-controlled states threw new support behind the Texas law, urging the court to let the restrictions stand while accusing the federal government of overstepping in bringing the challenge in the first place.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the law “clearly unconstitutional” and warned that it could become a model elsewhere in the country unless it’s struck down.

“The Attorney General has no authority to act as a roving reviser of state law, challenging as unconstitutional any rule with which he disagrees,” Indiana Attorney General Theodore Rokita told the appeals court in a brief filed Wednesday.

Last month, more than 20 other states, mostly run by Democrats, had urged the lower court to throw out the law.

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  • K. Nielsen October 15, 2021 at 7:26 pm Reply

    The Texas Heartbeat law is a big step forward to saving lives and hopefully overturning Roe vs Wade. It is estimated that over 3000 babies have been saved already. Contraception is widely available. Adoption is an option. The Biden /Harris administration is the most pro-abortion in history. Over 63,000,000 babies have been killed since 1973. The abortion industry is lying to women about the fetus just bring a “clump of cells” and are making millions selling fetal body parts to the University of Pittsburg among others. See grant applications and emails received by Judicial Watch through FOIA requests on their website. There other sources as well. Women simply do not have the right to kill their developing, unborn children.

  • Felicia October 16, 2021 at 8:10 am Reply

    Actually we do. And unless you have had an abortion you should keep your opinion to yourself. Thats like me saying you shouldn’t be a mormon because it’s a cult. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. The world is already over populated, and unless your ok with your children learning sex education in school and being able to obtain contraception then abortion is gonna be around for a long time.

    • K. Nielsen October 16, 2021 at 12:46 pm Reply

      The killing of the innocent is everyone’s business in a civilized, moral society. I am fine with contraception and basic sex education. Planned Parenthood has no business producing those materials for school though. Primarily, parents should teach their children according to their beliefs. Choices are made before sex, not after. If you are educated about the barbaric, tortuous methods to kill the fetus, and condone that, you need help and prayer. Personal responsibility and unbiased information needs to make a comeback. Ultrasound is a valuable tool before abortion. Many women, even in later life still deal with regret because they realized later, it wasn’t just a “clump of cells”.

      • Cleatus October 17, 2021 at 3:36 pm Reply

        If you’re prolife then you need to be adopting.
        There are many things in life than death. This is yet again a symptom to where we are heading. I have started to believe that the American people are not capable of self rule. You can see it on both the right and the left. I am sire China will do a better job of governing here in a few years.

  • Felicia October 19, 2021 at 8:18 am Reply

    You are crazy if you think kids dont see pornography or are trying things ” before marriage” abstinence is a joke and literally 20% follow those rules. Planned parent hood should be the ones making the curriculum fle sex education. They have the statistics for STD’s among age populations, the best ways to use preventative measures and standard education on sexual intercourse. As for abortion its not your business no matter how holy you seem to think you are. Adoption? Yeah ok lets make all these women have kids so they can sit in the system with the THOUSANDS of other kids WAITING to be adopted because process for adoption is a hoops game with fire rings for anyone wanting to adopt. Oh and also lest us forget the parents who DO manage to adopt are just perverts who molest their adopted or foster children, abuse them, miss treat them. You may think you are right and the world is full of perfect people but your wrong. Theres good and bad so who are you to judge anyone on their personal choices.

  • Felicia October 19, 2021 at 8:21 am Reply

    Sorry not ALL parents who adopt are perverts just a percentage. And the physiological toll it takes on children being with people other than their parents.

    • K.Nielsen October 19, 2021 at 8:02 pm Reply

      I didn’t not say I disagreed with all sex education in schools nor the use of contraception. Planned Parenthood’s materials have shown to be inappropriate. They also have a conflict of interest. They are an abortion provider which makes money by selling fetal parts. As far as adoption, there are thousands of couples willing to adopt newborn babies and older children as well. Prospective parents are carefully screened. I know about the adoption process. Perhaps if the millions of federal taxpayer funds given to PP were used to help couples with adoption costs, that would be a far more noble use of money. Also, it is my understanding that foster care seeks first to eventually reunite children with their parents, if possible. Are you saying that because there are children in foster care that the unborn are to to be denied the right to life? Sadly, too many women want to fight to kill their unborn children and it’s quite sad. But of course, we can never let it appear that we are “judging anyone”. Good day to you.

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