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PoliticsUnited States of America

US court reinstates Texas abortion law

October 9, 2021

Texas has won its bid at a federal appeals court to temporarily reimpose the strictest abortion law in the US.

 Pro-choice activist rally as the Supreme Court
A conservative-leaning appeals court ruled that Texas could resume a ban on abortions Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Thew

A US federal appeals court on Friday ruled that Texas could resume its near-ban on abortions. 

It comes just two days after a district judge had blocked the state from implementing the controversial Senate Bill 8 (SB8), which bans terminations after 6 weeks.

A number of clinics took the opportunity to once again conduct abortions on Thursday. 

What is the legal history of the abortion law?

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, an intermediate appeals court, said Friday that a lower court judge should not have issued an injunction that halted enforcement of the abortion law.

On October 6, US District Judge Robert Pitman had issued an order suspending the abortion law. An appointee of former US President Barack Obama, Pitman said the law was an "offensive deprivation" of the constitutional right to an abortion.

Pitman's order came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Biden administration on September 9. The US Justice Department argued that the law impeded women from exercising their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

Abortions were made legal across the US in a landmark Supreme Court judgment, often referred to as the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.

The Justice Department added that the abortion law interfered with the federal law to provide people with abortion care and related services. The lawsuit also warned that other Republican-controlled states could adopt similar measures.

Women's rights advocates condemn ruling

Whole Woman's Health health services provider, which operates a few abortion clinics in the state, was one of the first organizations to resume services when the ban was temporarily lifted.

"Folks know this opportunity could be short-lived," Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president of the organization said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization of lawyers and advocates who fight for women's reproductive health, issued a strong statement against the ruling.

“The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness. It’s unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas," Nancy Northup, the president of the organization, said.

Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that promotes sexual health, promised to keep up the fight against the law.

What is the Texas abortion law?

The Republican-backed law, which went into effect on September 1, is the toughest legislation of its kind in the United States.

It prohibits women from obtaining an abortion as soon as an embryo's heartbeat is detectable. This is usually after six weeks of pregnancy, at which point many women are unaware they are pregnant.

The law does not make exceptions in the cases of incest or rape.

A unique aspect of the Texas law is that it allows ordinary citizens to enforce the ban by empowering them to sue a person who has assisted in an abortion.

It also provides people with rewards of at least $10,000 (€8,600) if they successfully sue anyone who helped provide an abortion after fetal cardiac activity had been detected.

rm/rt (AP, Reuters)

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