A federal judge has blocked enforcement of a Texas abortion ban that bars the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions for rape or incest.
Whole Woman’s Health, a network of abortion clinics, said it is making plans to resume abortions up to 18 weeks “as soon as possible.”
“Today, we breathe a deep sigh of relief after a federal judge has blocked the enforcement of Senate Bill 8. Our clinic staff has been bending over backward to help as many of our patients as we can,” said Whole Woman’s Health founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller. “This is the justice we have been seeking for weeks and we are grateful that the court has finally stepped in to curb some of the harm Texans have faced.”
But the ruling may not hold. The state of Texas almost immediately appealed the ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, a staunchly conservative court.
In his order, Judge Robert Pitman called the Texas law an “unprecedented and aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right.”
“From the moment SB 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” he wrote. “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.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose department brought the federal government’s suit against the state, called the ruling a “victory.”
“It is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to protect constitutional rights against all who would seek to undermine them.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Pitman’s ruling “an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas” and said President Joe Biden supports “codifying” the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision.
“The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women’s rights are currently under attack,” Psaki said.
Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List decried the ruling by a “unelected judge.”
This story is being updated.