The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals acted swiftly to grant a request for an administrative stay of Texas’ order it filed Friday afternoon. The state’s move comes after US District Judge Robert Pittman issued a sweeping order blocking the law at the request of the US Department of Justice, which came up with a legal challenge last month.
On Friday night, the New Orleans-based appellate court asked the Justice Department to respond by 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday to a Texas Department of Justice request that Pittman’s order be stayed while its appeal is considered by the 5th Circuit. Go. Judge Carl Stewart, the person appointed by Clinton; George W. Bush appointee Katharina Haynes; And James Ho, a Trump appointee, sat on the appellate panel considering the state’s request.
The fight over Pittman’s orders could eventually end before the Supreme Court, which rejected an earlier request by abortion clinics that it block the law.
Following the appeals court action on Friday, Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that “the Supreme Court needs to try and stop this madness.”
“It is unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit has stayed such a rational decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return to Texas,” she said. “Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear, and this brutal law is hitting hardest on those who already face discriminatory barriers to health care, particularly Black Indigenous, and other people of color, undocumented immigrants, young people who are struggling to make ends meet, and rural areas.”
Rather than task government officials to enforce restrictions through criminal or administrative penalties, the law enlists private citizens to prosecute providers or any person in state court for detection of fetal heart activity. Assists a woman in achieving an abortion after – a point usually around six weeks into the pregnancy but often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
To get around this unusual enforcement mechanism, Pittman’s order barred state court officials, including judges, from proceeding with state court lawsuits filed against clinics and others accused of violating the ban.
Texas said Friday in its request to the 5th Circuit that Pittman’s order violated precedent in how it targeted state courts, as well as private individuals seeking to bring enforcement litigation under the abortion ban.
“There is no precedent for a district court injunction; it grossly and irreparably interferes with the operation of the Texas state-court,” Texas wrote in the filing. “It also places state courts and their employees under imminent threat of contempt based on the actions of third parties that they cannot control.”
Until Pittman’s order on Wednesday, the design of the ban’s enforcement mechanism had been successful in preventing other attempts – by clinics and others – to enforce the law.
“Fully aware that it would be unconstitutional to deprive its citizens of this right by direct state action, the state created an unprecedented and transparent statutory plan to do so,” Pittman wrote on Wednesday.
When the clinic, in its own lawsuit challenging the ban, first asked the 5th Circuit to block the law, the appeals court declined, as did the conservative majority of the US Supreme Court.
“Ever since SB 8 came into force, women have been prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” Pittman said. “What other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is their decision; this Court will not allow another day of this aggressive deprivation of such an important right.”
This title and story have been updated with additional developments on Friday.
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