Texas may continue to ban most abortions after a federal appeals court on Thursday rejected the Biden administration’s latest attempt to undo a new law that has become the nation’s biggest brake on abortion in nearly 50 years.
It pushes Texas law closer to returning to the United States Supreme Court, which in September allowed the state to go ahead with a ban on abortions once heart activity is detected, usually around six weeks. No exceptions are made in cases of rape or incest.
Since then, Texas women have sought out abortion clinics in neighboring states, some driving for hours in the middle of the night and including patients as young as 12 years old.
The new decision of the fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals Extends an earlier order that for now keeps Texas law known as Senate Bill 8 in effect. The conservative appellate court has sided. Texas and has let the restrictions remain.
It leaves the Texas department of justice and abortion providers with a narrower path to try to stop the law, which has thus far prevailed due to a unique structure that leaves enforcement of the law to private citizens. Anyone who files a successful lawsuit against an abortion provider for breaking the law has the right to claim at least $ 10,000 in damages, which, according to the Biden administration, amounts to a reward.
Despite numerous legal challenges both before and after the law took effect on September 1, only once has a court moved to suspend the restriction, and that order only stood for 48 hours.
During that brief period, some Texas clinics rushed to perform abortions on patients past six weeks, but many more appointments were canceled after the fifth circuit was moved to swiftly reinstate the law. The Biden administration could now seek a new hearing or go directly to the supreme court, just as abortion providers tried unsuccessfully in August.
Texas had roughly two dozen abortion clinics before the law took effect, and operators have said some could be forced to close if the restrictions remain in place much longer.
The stakes are already high in the coming months about the future of abortion rights in the United States. In December, the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court will hear Mississippi’s attempt to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade decision guaranteeing abortion rights.
A 1992 supreme court decision prevented states from banning abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy. But the Texas version has outdone the courts so far due to the fact that it offloads the law enforcement to private citizens.
Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, established a hotline to receive complaints against abortion providers, but has not filed any lawsuits.