Justice department urges judge to halt Texas abortion law
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge is deciding whether to block the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which has banned most abortions in Texas since early September and sent women racing hundreds of miles to get care outside the state.
The Biden administration on Friday urged U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman to suspend the law, saying Texas has waged an attack on a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. But even if the law is put on hold, abortion services in the second-most populous state may not instantly resume because doctors still fear that they could be sued without a more permanent legal decision.
That worry underscores the durability of Senate Bill 8, which has already withstood a wave of challenges. Pitman, based in Austin and who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, presided over a nearly three-hour hearing Friday but did not say when he will rule.
The law bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, which is usually around six weeks, before some women know they are pregnant. To enforce the law, Texas deputized private citizens to file lawsuits against violators, and has entitled them to at least $10,000 in damages if successful.
“A state may not ban abortions at six weeks. Texas knew this, but it wanted a six-week ban anyway, so the state resorted to an unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice that was designed to scare abortion providers and others who might help women exercise their constitutional rights,” Justice Department attorney Brian Netter told the court.
So far, abortion providers trying to block the Texas law have been rejected at every turn. That makes the lawsuit filed by the Justice Department their best chance yet to deliver the first legal blow to the GOP-engineered restrictions, which were signed into law by...