A federal appeals court reinstated a Texas law banning most abortions less than a day after abortion clinics in the state began accepting new patients. A one-page order by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals issued late Friday reinstated the nation's strictest abortion law, which bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks. Texas did not list cases of rape or incest as exceptions to the piece of legislation.
In response to the Appeals Court order, Nancy Northrup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called on the US Supreme Court to "step in and stop this madness" and said that "patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear."
"I thought, 'Oh my god. This is going to end abortions, period,'" said Texas abortionist Joe Nelson. While he won't resume his practice until further judicial decisions from courts, he clarified that the "uncertainty was excruciating,"
Abortion clinics in Texas raced to resume operations after US District Judge Robert Pitman suspended the Texas law Wednesday, calling it an "offensive deprivation" of the constitutional right to an abortion in a blistering order. The decision came after other courts, including the Supreme Court, allowed the law to proceed in September without ruling on its constitutionality.
Pitman's order amounted to the first legal blow to the law known as Senate Bill 8. In the weeks since the restrictions took effect, Texas abortion providers said the impact had been "exactly what we feared."
Following the Pitman order, some clinics resumed abortion services on Thursday. However, the 5th Circuit of Appeals intervened, accepting a Texas request to settle the Pitman ruling pending further arguments. The Biden administration has until Tuesday to respond.
"Great news tonight," Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. "I will fight federal overreach at every turn." The new law threatens Texas abortion providers with lawsuits from private citizens, who can collect at least $10,000 in damages if successful. That novel approach to enforcement explains why Texas evaded an earlier wave of legal challenges before the first week of October.