Federal District Judge Robert Pitman has ruled in favor of the Biden administration, allowing for a temporary halt on a controversial Texas abortion bill, Senate Bill (SB) 8, while its constitutionality is argued in the court system.
The law, which restricts abortion access after six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant — went into effect in September, after the Supreme Court declined a similar request to temporarily halt the bill.
After the law went into effect, the Biden administration filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas for allegedly violating a woman’s right to choose.
In his 113-page opinion, Judge Pitman sided with the administration, writing that “women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution.”
“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” he added.
In a statement posted on its website, Texas Right to Life, a pro-life organization that hosts an abortion reporting tip line, stated that despite Judge Pitman’s ruling, it was “confident that the Texas Heartbeat Act will ultimately withstand this legal challenge and succeed where other states’ heartbeat bills have not.”
In addition to banning abortion after around six weeks, the law also allows anyone to file a lawsuit against any individual who helps another procur an abortion, although not the person seeking an abortion. This means that anyone adjacent to the procedure, including medical providers and counselors, could be sued.
Further, the law stipulates that medical providers who provide abortion services while the injunction is in place may be liable retroactively. In his ruling, Judge Pitman wrote that this provision is of “questionable legality,” the BBC reports.
“This injunction is a critical first step in restoring abortion rights and services in Texas,” said Nancy Northup, the CEO and President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement following the ruling. “The clinics and doctors we represent hope to resume full abortion services as soon as they are able, even though the threat of being sued retroactively will not be completely gone until SB 8 is struck down for good.”
She added, “The cruelty of this law is endless.”