Texas is planning to appeal a federal judge’s order blocking the state’s ban on abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
State officials filed notice that it would petition the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Wednesday night shortly after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee, sided with the Biden Justice Department, which had argued Texas’ law ran afoul of women’s constitutional rights.
But abortion services in Texas might not instantly resume even with the law, known as Senate Bill 8, on hold because doctors still fear that they could be sued without a more permanent legal decision, The Associated Press reported.
In his 113-page decision, Judge Pitman granted an injunction against the law while litigation continues.
He also denied the state’s request to pause an injunction until it could file an appeal, writing that “the state has forfeited the right to any such accommodation by pursuing an unprecedented and aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right.”
“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,” the judge 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.”
Judge Pitman’s order came less than a week after he heard arguments in the case and about one month after Texas’ law went into effect on Sept. 1.
The U.S. Supreme Court had declined to block its enactment, leaving the law in place while litigation against it continues in lower courts.
Chelsey Youman, director of the pro-life Human Coalition Action Texas, said the judge’s ruling “is a shameless example of unfettered judicial activism at its worst.”
“His historic injunction has no regard for the rule of law, and is more about partisan politics than a fair judgment of the law,” Ms. Youman said Wednesday in a statement.
The state law bans abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks of pregnancy. The Justice Department said Supreme Court precedent dating back decades gives women a constitutional right to an abortion up until a fetus is viable, which is usually around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
In his ruling, Judge Pitman wrote that “the United States is substantially likely to succeed on the merits of its claims. It is substantially likely that S.B. 8 violates the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the organization is “hopeful” that the judge’s order will permit abortion providers to resume services “as soon as possible.”
“Planned Parenthood providers across the country have reported serving Texas patients, who are heartbroken and furious that they’ve needed to leave home for essential health care — often at great expense,” Ms. Johnson said Wednesday in a statement.
Under the Texas law, state officials don’t enforce the abortion ban, but private citizens can sue for at least $10,000 if they have knowledge a provider illegally performed an abortion after a heartbeat was detected.
The White House released a statement Wednesday praising the judge’s decision, saying it “blatantly violates” the constitutional right to an abortion and “creates a scheme to allow private citizens to interfere with that right and to evade judicial review.”