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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Texas abortion: US appeals court reinstates near total ban


A US federal appeals court has temporarily reinstated Texas’s near total ban on abortions.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s request to lift an injunction against the law.

A lower court temporarily blocked the bill on Wednesday for “offensive deprivation” of the constitutional right to abortion.

The law prohibits all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The bill, which went into effect on September 1, makes no exceptions for rape or incestuous pregnancies.

It also allows ordinary citizens to enforce the ban, rewarding them with at least $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who assisted in the provision of an abortion after foetal cardiac activity is detected. According to critics of the law, this provision allows people to act as anti-abortion bounty hunters.

On Wednesday District Judge Robert Pitman granted a request by the Biden administration to prevent enforcement of the law while its legality was being challenged. He held that women had been “unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution”.

Texas officials, however, immediately filed an appeal against the ruling, which the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed to overturn. It has given the Justice Department until Tuesday to respond to its ruling.

Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called on the Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness” in a statement following the latest ruling.

“Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear, and this cruel law is hitting those who already face discriminatory barriers in health care the hardest, especially Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour, undocumented immigrants, young people, those struggling to make ends meet, and those in rural areas,” she said.

“The courts have an obligation to prevent laws that violate fundamental rights from becoming law.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Ken Paxton called the court’s decision “great news” and pledged to “fight to keep Texas free from federal overreach.”

The dispute over the law could ultimately end up before the US Supreme Court, which in September declined to hear an emergency case filed in a last-minute bid to prevent the ban passing into law.

Following Wednesday’s order, several clinics in Texas resumed providing abortions to patients who were past the six-week limit.

According to legal experts, they may now face some legal risk because the law includes a provision that states clinics and doctors may still be held liable for abortions performed while an emergency injunction is in place.

However, it is unclear whether such a provision can be enforced, as Judge Pittman stated in his ruling that it is “of dubious legality.”

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