Federal judge grants Oct. 1 hearing on anti-abortion law

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Breaking, News

After the United States Department of Justice filed a preliminary injunction/restraining order against Texas in another attempt to halt Senate Bill 8, a federal judge granted the Biden administration a hearing on Oct. 1 to review temporarily banning the anti-abortion law. 

In the signed statement, Judge Robert Pitman stated that Texas shall file in response to the motion no later than Sept. 29, 2021 and the U.S. shall file its reply in response no later than the morning of the hearing.

On Tuesday, the United States Department of Justice filed a preliminary injunction/ temporary restraining order against Texas to halt Senate Bill 8 while the case is decided.

The anti-abortion law, which went into effect Sept. 1, bans abortion after six weeks, a time when most people don’t even know they are pregnant, and allows private citizens to sue abortion providers in court. 

If successful, the plantifs can also be awarded $10,000 in addition to the abortion provider paying for their legal fees and expenses. 

The law also enables any private citizen in the country to sue anyone who “aids and abets” someone who chooses to get an aboriton. This means any person who helps someone pay for an abortion financially, drives the person to the facility, or staff members in abortion clinics are targets for a potential lawsuit. 

Since last month, abortion providers in Texas including Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Whole Women’s Health have been in back and forth litigation against the state in district, federal, and the Supreme Court to stop the law. 

But on Sept. 3, in a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court denied the emergency request to block the ban of the bill and the law went into effect. 

So the Biden administration is using federal power to stop the law. 

In their 47 page temporary restraining order, the DOJ highlighted how SB 8 has impacted Texans just in the past two weeks it’s been in law. 

Furthermore, the many pregnant Texans who have been forced to look for reproductive care in neighboring states like Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Kansas. 

“Because all providers in Texas are adhering to SB 8 the vast majority of women seeking abortions in Texas are being turned away,” the DOJ wrote. “All the while, clinics in neighboring states are receiving panicked calls from patients in Texas and continue to see ‘large increases in minor patients, survivors of sexual assault, patients with a maternal or fetal diagnosis, and patients with later gestational ages’.” 

In addition to the physical, emotional, and mental burden, according to the DOJ, the financial burden and costs are also weighing heavily on pregnant Texans, specifically rural, low-income and minority communities

“Another patient facing violence at the hands of her husband is ‘discreetly attempting to leave Texas without her husband finding out,’ and is ‘desperate’ and ‘selling personal items’ to scrape together the funds needed for an out-of-state abortion,” the order states. 

For their argument, the DOJ used the four dissenting justices’ opinion of SB 8 to explain how the chilling effect on abortion providers is a clear violation to a person’s constitutional rights. Moreover, the violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Supremacy Clause in accordance with precedents in Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. 

“S.B. 8 denies the individuals whose constitutional rights are violated a mechanism by which they can protect those rights in court,” the order states. “And by delegating enforcement authority to private bounty hunters, the statute ensures that the only way providers may challenge the constitutionality of S.B. 8 is by performing abortions prohibited by the law and risking ruinous penalties…” 

The DOJ also emphasized the law’s violation of access to medical abortion care under federal programs and the law’s interference with third party providers who are contracted to perform abortions for these programs. 

 Among many examples, the DOJ highlighted the Federal Bureau of Prison, the United States Marshals Service, the Department of Labor Job Corps, and Center for Medicare and Medicaid services. 

“For example, to allow federal inmates to exercise their constitutional rights, Federal Bureau of Prison (‘BOP’) regulations provide that a BOP prison’s Clinical Director ‘shall arrange for an abortion to take place’ after a pregnant inmate signs a statement choosing an elective abortion,” the DOJ wrote. “The law thus ‘disrupts the performance of required duties of BOP staff’ by, among other operational disruptions, likely ‘creat[ing] confusion among BOP staff employed in Texas to whether they can follow established BOP policy’.” 

This restraining order comes after the DOJ and President Biden promised to protect women seeking reproductive care earlier this month. Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement last week after the United States Supreme Court 5-4 decision to not block the ban.

“We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act,” Garland wrote.

kennedy@texassignal.com | + posts

Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.

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