AUSTIN, Texas — Texas clinics on Saturday canceled booked appointments during a 48-hour reprieve from the most restrictive abortion law in the US to go back into effect as weary providers turn to the Supreme Court again had gone.
The Biden administration, which sued Texas over a law known as Senate Bill 8, has yet to say whether it will go down that path after a federal appeals court reinstates the law late Friday. . The latest twist came two days after a lower court in Austin suspended a law that bans abortions, usually around six weeks, before cardiac activity is detected for some women who discover they are pregnant. has given. It makes no exception in cases of rape or incest.
The White House did not immediately comment on Saturday.
For now at least, the law is in the hands of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed sanctions to resume further arguments. Meanwhile, Texas abortion providers and patients are back exactly where they have been for more than six weeks.
With Texas patients already seeking abortions, out-of-state clinics were again the closest option for many women. Providers say others are being forced to terminate pregnancies, or are waiting in hopes that courts will nullify the law, which takes effect on September 1.
There are also new questions — including which anti-abortion advocates will try to punish Texas physicians who performed abortions during the brief window the law was put on hold late Wednesday through late Friday. Texas leaves enforcement entirely in the hands of private citizens who can collect $10,000 or more in damages if they successfully prosecute abortion providers who break the restrictions.
Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, created a tip line to receive reports of violators. John Seago, the group’s legislative director, said about a dozen calls came after US District Judge Robert Pittman suspended the law.
Although some Texas clinics said they have resumed abortions on patients who are more than six weeks old, Sigo said there were no lawsuits in his group’s work. He said the clinics’ public statements “do not match what we saw on the ground”, which he says includes a network of observers and crisis pregnancy centres.
“At the time of litigation, I have no credible evidence that we will bring forward,” Sigo said on Saturday.
There were about two dozen abortion clinics in Texas before the law went into effect. At least six clinics resume performing abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
At Whole Women’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas, president and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said she didn’t have the number of abortions performed for patients older than six weeks, but put it at “quite a few.” She said her clinics were again law-abiding and acknowledged the risks posed by her physicians and staff.
“Of course we’re all worried,” she said. “But we also feel a deep commitment to providing abortion care that, while it is legal to do so, we did.”
Pittman, the federal judge who on Wednesday blocked the Texas law in an 113-page opinion, was appointed by President Barack Obama. He called the law an “aggressive deprivation” of the constitutional right to abortion, but his decision was swiftly set aside — at least for now — by the 5th Circuit in a one-page order Friday night.
The same appeals court previously allowed the Texas restrictions to take effect in September in a separate lawsuit brought by abortion providers. This time the court has given the Justice Department time till 5 pm on Tuesday to respond.
What happens after that is unclear, including how quickly the appeals court will act or whether they will request further arguments. Texas is asking the appeals court for a permanent injunction that would allow the law to stand while the case continues.
Meanwhile, Nancy Northup, chair of the Center for Reproductive Rights, urged the Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness.” Last month, the High Court in a 5-4 decision allowed the law to proceed, though it did so without ruling on the constitutionality of the law.
A 1992 Supreme Court decision barred states from banning abortions before viability, at which point the fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy. But the Texas version has overtaken the courts because of its novel enforcement mechanism that enforces private citizens and not prosecutors, which critics say equates to a bounty.
The Biden administration could bring the matter back to the Supreme Court and ask it to quickly reinstate Pitman’s order, although it is unclear whether they will do so.
“I’m not very optimistic about what might happen in the Supreme Court,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, of the Justice Department’s prospects.
“But there’s not too much negative, is there?” he said. “The question is, what has changed since the last time they saw it? It’s a complete opinion, this whole hearing before the judge and the record. So that might be enough.”