Oct. 7, 2021 -- A federal judge has paused the recent Texas abortion law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.

Robert Pitman, a federal district court judge in Austin, sided with the Biden administration and granted the Justice Department’s request to halt enforcement of the new law. The Biden administration sued to stop the law, and Pitman’s decision pauses the law while it moves through federal courts, The New York Times reported.

In a 113-page ruling, Pitman criticized the law, also known as Senate Bill 8, for delegating enforcement to private individuals, who can sue anyone who performs abortions or “aids and abets” them. Plaintiffs are encouraged to file lawsuits because they recover legal fees and $10,000 if they win.

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their own lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” Pitman wrote in the ruling.

“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” he said.

The Texas law bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which is usually around 6 weeks of pregnancy. Women may not know they’re pregnant yet during that time frame.

It’s not yet clear what effect Pitman’s ruling will have on women in Texas, the Times reported. Since the law went into effect about a month ago, women have sought abortion providers in other states. Pitman’s ruling pauses the enforcement of the law, but clinics may still face retroactive lawsuits for abortions provided while the law was temporarily suspended.

Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics in Texas, said Wednesday that it was “making plans to resume abortion care up to 18 weeks as soon as possible,” the newspaper reported. The Center for Reproductive Rights also said that clinics “hope to resume full abortion services as soon as they are able.”

Late Wednesday, Texas said it would appeal the ruling. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is one of the most conservative in the country, according to the Times, and another decision could come in the next few days.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

The New York Times: “Federal Judge Pauses Strict Texas Law Banning Most Abortions.”

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division: “United States of America v. The State of Texas, Case 1:21-CV-796-RP, filed Oct. 6, 2021.”

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