Texas activists and Democrats vow to keep fighting after abortion ban blocked

Reproductive rights groups and Democrats welcome federal judge’s decision but warn its impact could be temporary

Texas’s near-total abortion ban has been temporarily blocked after a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that it violated the constitutional right to an abortion. Reproductive rights groups and Democrats have welcomed the decision, while warning its impact could be temporary.

“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,” Judge Robert Pitman wrote as part of a 113-page opinion, granting an emergency request from the justice department.

The lawsuit was brought by the Biden administration, which has said the restrictions of Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) were enacted in defiance of the US constitution. The Biden administration argued that Texas has waged an attack on the constitutional right to abortion.

SB 8, passed last month, bars abortions after six weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest and also allows private citizens to sue anyone they suspect of “aiding or abetting” the procedure.

But questions remain if the ruling will hold. The state of Texas has already filed a notice that they will appeal the decision to the fifth circuit court of appeals in New Orleans, a notably conservative court. The appeals court previously denied a request from abortion clinics to block the law.

Even with the law on hold, abortion services in Texas may not instantly resume because doctors still fear that they could be sued without a more permanent legal decision.

“SB8 has wreaked havoc on Texans. We’ll continue to fight until our right to abortion care is permanently restored,” tweeted the Texas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Many have voiced their approval with Pitman’s decision, including reproductive rights groups and prominent figures in the Democratic party.

“While this fight is far from over,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a statement, “we are hopeful that the court’s order blocking SB 8 will allow Texas abortion providers to resume services as soon as possible.”

The US attorney general, Merrick Garland, called the decision a “victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law”. “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.”

“This is good news. Judge Pitman’s ruling is the right one. Women’s freedom to decide over their bodies needs to be protected, not put to the criteria of private individuals seeking a bounty. We must continue fighting to protect Roe v Wade,” tweeted Texas representative Sylvia Garcia.

The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, described Pitman’s decision as “an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas” and confirmed that Joe Biden supports “codifying” the supreme court’s Roe v Wade ruling.

“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.

Planned Parenthood on Friday released a report saying that if Roe v Wade were overturned, 26 states are primed to ban abortion. This year alone, nearly 600 abortion restrictions have been introduced in statehouses nationwide, with more than 90 becoming law, according to Planned Parenthood.

An even bigger challenge to abortion access could come later this year when the supreme court is set to hear Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case from Mississippi on if states are able to ban abortions before fetal viability.

“The fight is far from over, but this is seriously good news,” tweeted Naral Pro-Choice America in response to the block.

In the face of the decision, some Texas abortion clinics announced their plans to resume abortions that were previously barred under Texas’s rule. Whole Woman’s Health, a network of abortion clinics, has said they plan to resume abortions up to 18 weeks “as soon as possible”.

“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,” said Whole Woman’s Health founder and CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.


Gloria Oladipo

The GuardianTramp

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