Texas’ reviled abortion ban allowed to take effect again after court ruling

Protestors hold up signs at the Women's March and Rally for Abortion Justice in New York

A US court has temporarily reinstated Texas’ near-total ban on abortion just a day after clinics were allowed to resume services for the first time since early September.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration temporarily blocked the law, known as SB 8, from being enforced, and Texas officials immediately appealed against the ruling.

A one-page order issued on Friday (8 October) evening from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily overturned the previous court’s decision, reinstating the reviled abortion ban.

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

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

She added: “The courts have an obligation to block laws that violate fundamental rights.”

However, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton said online that the court’s decision was “great news”, adding that he would “continue to fight to keep Texas free from federal overreach”.

The reviled law, which went into effect on 1 September after the Supreme Court refused to block it, effectively bans abortions from as early as six weeks of pregnancy, which is often before more people know they are pregnant. The Texas law also makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

It also threatens anyone who provides or facilitates an abortion in Texas with lawsuits from private citizens, who are entitled to collect at least $10,000 in damages if successful.

On Wednesday (6 October), district judge Robert Pitman temporarily halted the enforcement of the Republican-backed law. He described the law in his ruling as an “unprecedented and aggressive scheme” to deprive people of their right to choose.

The Biden administration argued the Texas ban went against the constitutional right to abortion granted under the landmark Roe v Wade ruling. US attorney general Merrick Garland said the law was legislation that “all Americans should fear”, adding the act is “clearly unconstitutional”.

Some clinics in Texas had quickly reopened after the draconian law was halted. Abortion care provider Whole Woman’s Health, which runs four clinics in Texas, resumed offering services on Thursday (7 October).

Amy Hagstrom Miller, the firm’s founder, told reporters that “phone call volume has increased”, and there was “actually hope from patients and staff”.

“There’s a little desperation in that hope,” Miller said. “Folks know this opportunity could be short-lived.”

Following the latest ruling, Adriana Piñon, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, said the organisation has seen the “devastation” caused by allowing “this extremist law to exist for a few weeks”.

“Texans are travelling hundreds of miles to access abortion care in overwhelmed clinics outside the state,” Piñon said. “People without the money to travel will be forced to continue with pregnancies they decided not to carry.”

The Biden administration has been given until Tuesday (12 October) to respond to this latest development, the Independent reported.