NEW ORLEANS (CN) — Texas’ near-total ban on abortions will remain in effect after the Fifth Circuit Thursday night declined the Justice Department’s latest request to unravel the nation’s most restrictive abortion law barring the procedure at six weeks.
The Fifth Circuit’s decision to keep the controversial law in place comes less than a week after the circuit temporarily reinstated it. The law has virtually eliminated access to abortion in Texas after six weeks of pregnancy, forcing some to travel out of state where backlogs for care have been reported.
In a 2-1 decision, the federal appeals court granted the state’s emergency request to keep the law known as Senate Bill 8 in place. It is the third time the New Orleans-based appeals court ruled in favor of the state and allowed enforcement of the law to continue.
The Justice Department will likely appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Attorneys with the DOJ argued that the law unconstitutionally restricts a woman’s access to an abortion.
The law has been in effect since September and makes no exceptions for rape or incest. A federal judge earlier this month blocked the law, but his ruling was in place for just 48 hours before it was overturned.
In the six weeks that it has been in place, the law has brought abortion care in Texas to a standstill, drawn condemnation from President Joe Biden and been the source of legal challenges over the state’s ability to ban the procedure.
At the center of the challenges is the provision delegating enforcement power from the state to private individuals to sue doctors, or anyone who “aids and abets” the procedure, with fines of at least $10,000 per violation.
“It’s outrageous but unsurprising that the Fifth Circuit has once again denied Texans their fundamental reproductive rights,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Time and again, the Fifth Circuit has ignored the Constitution by allowing numerous abortion restrictions to take effect, including SB 8 today and last year when Texas used the pandemic as an excuse to ban abortion.”
The DOJ sued the state last month after the Supreme Court allowed the law to take effect. The high court will hear arguments Dec. 1 over the constitutionality of a Mississippi case involving a ban on abortions performed after the 15th week of pregnancy. A decision in that matter is not expected until the end of the court’s next term in June 2022.
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