On Thursday night, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit voted 2-1 to allow Texas’s highly restrictive abortion ban to remain in effect during the ongoing legal battle over the constitutionality of the punitive new legislation. Last week, Austin-based U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the enforcement of the Texas anti-abortion legislation, a decision which the same body of judges put on hold less than 48 hours later in response to an emergency request from the state of Texas to reinstate the law. On Monday of this week, the Department of Justice asked the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to pause enforcement of the abortion ban during its attempt to appeal the Texas legislation—a request which the court denied in their Thursday decision. And this is just what’s happened over the past two weeks!
The Thursday decision could put Judge Pitman’s ruling on hold for an indefinite period—time that Texas abortion providers, many of whom are already struggling to stay afloat financially, can’t afford to waste. The state’s brutal abortion ban attempts to circumvent judicial review by empowering private citizens to file lawsuits against any person or entity that helps a pregnant person get an abortion after six weeks. “A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established,” wrote Judge Robert L. Pitman in his October 6th ruling. “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.”
But while the Justice Department’s litigation against Texas continues, the extreme legislation has stopped almost all abortions in the state, forcing pregnant people seeking termination to go to other states in order to get access to their full range of reproductive options—a situation that is already putting an unsustainable strain on abortion clinics in nearby states, including Oklahoma.