Federal Judge Puts New Texas Abortion Law On Hold

A federal judge has ordered Texas to stop enforcement of the state’s recently implemented abortion statute, the most restrictive in the country, calling it a “scheme” to get around court precedent.

In granting a temporary restraining order that, for now, halts enforcement of the statute, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman wrote that “a person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established. Fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the State contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that.”

He found that lawmakers “drafted the law with the intent to preclude review by federal courts that have the obligation to safeguard the very rights the statute likely violates.”

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The Supreme Court last month, in a 5-4 decision, let the law go into effect, furthering concerns among abortion rights groups that the justices ultimately would overturn Roe vs. Wade. The majority said that they were not weighing in on the constitutionality of the law, but ruled that abortion rights advocates had not made their case for stopping it.

The Texas law bans most abortions in the state, as it bans abortions once a heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks. That is before many women even know they are pregnant. But instead of tasking enforcement to state officials, the law created a “private right of action,” in which citizens could file lawsuit against those to violated it.

The restrictive law had drawn the attention of many activists in Hollywood, while it raised the prospect that filmmakers would forgo shooting projects in the state. David Simon, creator of The Wire, said that he would not shoot an upcoming HBO project in the state, even though it is based on events that happened there.

The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, has yet to comment on the ruling, but Texas is expected to file an appeal. Pitman, however, was clear that since the law went into effect, “women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the ruling was “a victory for women in Texas and the rule of law. It is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution. We will continue to protect constitutional rights against all who would seek to undermine them.”

Ron Klain, chief of staff to President Joe Biden, wrote on Twitter, “It’s just round one. But a big win for the Biden administration — and the constitution — in federal court tonight.”

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