AUSTIN (AP) — Texas abortion clinics cancelled Saturday appointments during a 48-hour reprieve of the most restrictive abortion law in America. The law was back in force as weary providers turn their sights again to the Supreme Court.
After a Texas federal appeals court reinstated Senate Bill 8, the Biden administration sued Texas. It has not yet said whether it would follow that path. The law bans abortions when cardiac activity is detected. This happens usually about six weeks before most women find out they are pregnant. Incest or rape cases are exempted from this ban.
The White House didn’t immediately comment on Saturday.
For now, however, the law remains in the control of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which granted the restriction to resume while further arguments were heard. The Texas abortion providers are and the patients are now back where they have been for the most part of the last six week.
Many women chose to have abortions in out-of-state clinics, which are already overflowing with Texas patients. Others are being forced to have pregnancies to term or waiting for courts to overturn the Sept. 1 law, according to providers.
New questions arise, including whether or not anti-abortion activists will seek to punish Texas doctors who performed abortions in the short time the law was suspended from Wednesday through Friday. Texas’s law leaves enforcement to private citizens, who can claim $10,000 in damages if they succeed in suing abortion providers who violate the restrictions.
Texas Right to Life is the largest state anti-abortion group. They have set up a tip line to help victims. John Seago, group’s legislative director, stated that about a dozen calls were received after Robert Pitman, U.S. District Judge, suspended the law.
Seago claimed that while some Texas clinics have admitted to briefly resuming abortions on patients older than six weeks, Seago maintained that there were no lawsuits against his group. He stated that clinics’ public statements didn’t “match up to what we saw on ground,” which include a network and crisis pregnancy centres.
Seago stated Saturday that he didn’t have any evidence to support his claim.
Texas had approximately twenty-six abortion clinics prior to the law’s implementation. The Center for Reproductive Rights reports that at least six of these clinics have resumed performing abortions six weeks after the reprieve.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health in Texas, stated that she does not know the exact number of abortions performed at each location. However, she said it was “quite few.” She stated that her clinics had been able to comply with the law again and acknowledged the risks taken by her doctors and staff.
“Of course, we are all worried,” she stated. “But we also feel a deep obligation to provide abortion care when legal.
President Barack Obama appointed Pitman as the federal judge that halted Texas’ law Wednesday. His 113-page opinion was a blistering one. Pitman called the law “offensively depriving” the constitutional right to an abort. But his one-page ruling by the 5th Circuit was quickly overturned.
In a separate case brought by providers of abortion, the same appeals court had previously approved Texas’s restrictions being implemented in September. The Justice Department was given until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to respond.
Nancy Northup (president of the Center for Reproductive Rights) urged the Supreme Court not to allow this “madness” to continue. The Supreme Court granted the law’s passage in a 5-4 decision last month, but it didn’t rule on its constitutionality.
In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot ban abortion before viability. This refers to the point at the time a fetus is capable of living outside the womb. It occurs around 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Texas’s version of the law has been able to outwit courts because it uses a novel enforcement mechanism that allows enforcement to be done by private citizens, not prosecutors. Critics claim this amounts to a reward.
Although it is not clear if they will, the Biden administration could take the case back before the Supreme Court.
Carl Tobias from the University of Richmond said, “I’m not very hopeful about what could happen to the Supreme Court,” about the Justice Department’s prospects.
“But there’s no downside, right?” He agreed. “The question is: What’s changed since they last saw it?” The record, as well as the full opinion and hearing before the judge are all available. This may be sufficient.