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Federal judge temporarily blocks Texas abortion ban

The block could still be overturned by a higher court.

Texas abortion law sign Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked the state’s controversial abortion law, which bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. In his ruling Wednesday night (Oct. 6), U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman sided with the Justice Department’s lawsuit.

“From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” he wrote in his decision. “That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”

In his ruling, the judge also aimed to get around the law’s enforcement method. As reported by REVOLT, rather than authorities enforcing the ban, the law was written so that private citizens can file lawsuits against any person who helps a woman obtain an abortion in violation of the ban. Civil suits can target clinics, physicians, or even a friend who drives a woman to her operation; and successful lawsuits threaten at least $10,000 in damages.

“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,” Pitman wrote.

His order blocks any officer of the state, including state court judges and court clerks, from enforcing the ban. Under Pitman’s ruling, all officers are prohibited from “accepting or docketing, maintaining, hearing, resolving, awarding damages in, enforcing judgments in, enforcing any administrative penalties in and administering any lawsuit” regarding the law.

Private citizens will also be blocked from suing anybody over violation of the ban.

“... Despite the Texas Attorney General’s lack of clarity about what the State would do in the face of a preliminary injunction, this Court trusts that the State will identify the correct state officers, officials, judges, clerks and employees to comply with this Order,” Pitman added.

Texas lawmakers said later Wednesday night that they will be appealing the judge’s order to the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals. According to CNN, if a higher court overturns Pitman’s block, clinics and physicians who violated the Texas law while it was blocked could still be held accountable.

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