A Federal Judge Just Issued an Order to Block Texas' Extreme Abortion Ban
On Wednesday, a little over a month after Texas' extreme new abortion ban went into effect — which, ICYDK, criminalizes the procedure after the sixth week of pregnancy — a federal judge ordered the state to suspend the nation's most rigid abortion law. (Related: How Late In Pregnancy Can You Have An Abortion?)
Robert L. Pitman, a Federal District Court judge in Austin, blasted Senate Bill 8 (the formal name for the Texas abortion law) in a 113-page ruling days after President Joe Biden's administration urged him to block the law, according to the Associated Press.
"From the moment SB8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution," wrote 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." (Related: TikTok Activists Are Fighting Back Against the Extreme Texas Abortion Law)
SB8 went into effect in Texas in September, prohibiting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before most women even realize they're pregnant. In fact, for people with a normal menstrual cycle (with periods occurring every 21 to 35 days), a six-week timeframe could be as early as two weeks after a missed period, according to Planned Parenthood. What's more, this act also enables private citizens to sue those aiding the procedure (e.g. health care workers, even rideshare drivers) or anyone funding the abortion.
The Justice Department also sued Texas in September over SB8, with Attorney General Merrick Garland stating, "The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights."
Pitman's temporary order prevents Texas judges or court clerks from enforcing SB8. On Wednesday, however, officials in Texas also told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that their intention is to appeal the ruling, according to The New York Times. It's unclear if abortion clinics and those providing the service in Texas will resume doing so immediately, according to the Associated Press. Those potentially aiding the procedure fear they could be vulnerable to a lawsuit "without a more permanent legal decision," according to the Associated Press.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court began a new term (which is when the Justices hear cases and offer their opinions), and in December, it will hear another important case dealing with abortion rights, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. For background, the Mississippi House passed a bill in 2018 that banned abortions after 15 weeks, except in certain circumstances, such as a medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality. An appeals court, however, blocked the state from enforcing the law. Mississippi is asking to overturn the appellate court ruling in addition to Roe v. Wade. This will be a major moment, given the Supreme Court will be tasked with considering whether or not it's constitutional to place a ban on abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb. (Read more: Megan Rapinoe Is Among 500+ Athletes Urging the Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Rights)
Because of what's happening in the courts, people — and women especially — are making their voices heard. In response to SB8 going into effect in Texas, a number of celebs have come forward condemning the law, even sharing their own personal accounts. Last month, Uma Thurman revealed in an op-ed in the The Washington Post that she had an abortion as a teen. Model Iskra Lawrence also took to Instagram in September to explain that she didn't know she was pregnant "until nearly [nine] weeks" into her pregnancy. "There are so many reasons [folks] may need or want an abortion from maternal death to abusive relationships or simply not having the financial means to feed and raise a child," she posted on Instagram at the time. "Women need access to abortions and that is their decision to make."