A federal judge granted a temporary injunction to the Justice Department blocking Texas from enforcing its strict abortion law which bars the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, the state has appealed the ruling.
Late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted the Department of Justice (DOJ) a temporary injunction blocking the enforcement of S.B. 8, which took effect in Texas on September 1, banning abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, CNN reported.
In most cases, fetal heartbeat occurs around six weeks, when many women remain unaware they are pregnant, NBC reported.
Under the Texas ban, private citizens can sue violators of the law, entitling them to a minimum of $10,000 in damage per defendant if successful.
“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” said Pitman in his ruling. “That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”
ABC reported that, since the law went into effect in Texas, women have been forced to travel hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion, and in dating the abortion clinics in neighboring states.
“The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women’s rights are currently under attack,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, calling the ruling “an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas.”
“That’s why the President supports codifying Roe v. Wade, why he has directed a whole-of-government response to S.B. 8,” Psaki continued, “and why he will continue to stand side-by-side with women across the country to protect their constitutional rights.”
“It is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, calling the ruling “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.” “We will continue to protect constitutional rights against all who would seek to undermine them,” Garland added.
Following the district court ruling, Texas filed an immediate notice of appeal, and is expected to seek an emergency stay of Pitman’s order in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Tribune reported. The appeal by the state was expected.
Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law Houston, told the Tribune in an email: “The court will likely put the trial court judgment on hold. Clinics that perform abortions now risk facing liability if the Fifth Circuit stays the ruling.”