AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge heard arguments Friday about whether Texas can drop the country’s most restrictive abortion law, which has banned most abortions and care beyond the borders of the second-most populous state. Women have been sent to run. America
A lawsuit filed by the Biden administration seeks to deal the first legal blow against a state law that has so far faced an early wave of challenges, including one reviewed by the US Supreme Court, which allowed it to remain in force. Gave.
The law is now in the hands of US District Judge Robert Pittman, an appointee of former President Barack Obama. The Justice Department wants Pittman to immediately block Texas from banning abortions after cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks.
Read more: Texas’ abortion law and what it means for the future of abortion rights in America
This happens before some women even know they are pregnant, and cases of rape or incest are no exception. Enforcement is left entirely to private citizens, who are entitled to damages of at least $10,000 if they succeed not only in prosecuting abortion providers who violate the law, but also for anyone seeking an abortion for a woman. has helped.
“A state can’t ban abortion 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, which abortion providers and others could use.” was designed to intimidate those who might help women to exercise their constitutional rights,” Justice Department attorney Brian Netter told the Court.
It was signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May and took effect on September 1.
In that short time, abortion providers say, “exactly what we feared” has become a reality. He describes Texas clinics that are now in danger of closure, while neighboring states struggle to contain the surge of patients who have to drive hundreds of miles from Texas. He says other women are being forced to conceive.
Read more: Texas women seeking abortion after 6 weeks have some out-of-state options
Will Thompson defending the law for the Texas Attorney General’s office said, “It’s not some sort of vigilance plan.” “This is a plan that uses the normal, lawful process of justice in Texas.”
It’s unclear how soon Pittman will make a decision.
It’s also unclear how quickly any of Texas’ nearly two dozen abortion clinics will resume normal operations if the law is set aside. Texas officials will likely seek a swift reversal from the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously allowed the sanctions to take effect.
“Abortion care in our state has almost completely stopped,” Texas abortion provider Dr. Ghazaleh Moedi told the US House Oversight and Reform Committee during a hearing on abortion access Thursday.
The Texas law is just one that has set up the largest test of abortion rights in the US in decades, and is part of a broader push by Republicans nationwide to introduce new restrictions on abortion.
On Monday, the US Supreme Court began a new term, in Mississippi’s bid in December in landmark Roe v. Wade’s decision, which guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion.
Last month, the court ruled on the constitutionality of the Texas law not allowing it to remain in place. But abortion providers took that 5-4 vote as an ominous sign of where the court was going after former President Donald Trump’s conservative majority with three appointments on abortion.
Other states, mostly in the South, have passed similar laws that ban abortions within the early weeks of pregnancy, all of which have been blocked by judges. But the Texas version has so far outstripped the courts because it leaves enforcement to private citizens, not prosecutors, which critics say equates to a reward.
Texas officials argued in court filings this week that even if the law was temporarily halted, providers could still face the threat of litigation over violations that could take place in the time between a permanent decision. Is.
“The federal government complains that the Heartbeat Act is difficult to effectively enforce,” the state wrote in objection to the lawsuit by the Biden administration. “But there is no requirement that a state write its own laws to easily incorporate them.”
At least one Texas abortion provider has admitted to violating the law and has been prosecuted — but not by abortion opponents. Former Illinois and Arkansas attorneys say they sued the San Antonio doctor in hopes of getting a judge who would invalidate the law.