A federal judge has rejected the Biden administration’s attempt to shelve the Texas anti-abortion “heartbeat” law that took effect Sept. 1.
The law has the effect of making it illegal to have abortions in Texas after about the sixth week of pregnancy — when the heartbeat of a baby can be detected. The law, which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to take effect, allows citizens to bring complaints, in effect making them whistleblowers on behalf of the unborn.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice made an emergency court filing demanding the law be blocked.
“The State of Texas adopted S.B. 81 to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights,” the filing said, adding that “Texas has banned abortions months before viability — at a time before many women even know they are pregnant.”
“When other States have enacted laws abridging reproductive rights to the extent that S.B. 8 does, courts have enjoined enforcement of the laws before they could take effect. In an effort to avoid that result, Texas devised an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge S.B. 8 in federal court,” the filing said.
“Consistent with the Court’s previous Order, (Dkt. 12), that set a hearing on the United States’ Emergency Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order or Preliminary Injunction, (Dkt. 8), this case presents complex, important questions of law that merit a full opportunity for the parties to present their positions to the Court. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the United States’ Opposed Motion for Expedited Briefing Schedule, (Dkt. 13), is DENIED,” the judge wrote.
Pitman, who was nominated to the bench by then-President Barack Obama in 2014, had earlier agreed that before he would rule on the federal motion to block the Texas law, he would hear arguments from both sides, setting a deadline of Oct. 1 for paperwork to be filed, according to Newsweek.
The Department of Justice did not want to wait that long and filed the request for action immediately, which Pitman rejected.
Since the law took effect, Texas abortion clinics have canceled appointments for abortions, according to The Texas Tribune.
“For all the bluster about Roe v. Wade being a matter of women’s rights, note how quickly clinics abandoned the clients they claim to champion once their profits were actually at stake,” wrote Roger Severino, senior fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, in an Op-Ed for Newsweek on Thursday.
“So naturally, Planned Parenthood and other abortionists have asked their friends in the Biden administration to try again to block the law on their behalf so the cash can start flowing again,” he wrote.
Severino said that the Department of Justice was way off base legally when it suggested that the law made citizens into some form of legalized vigilantes.
“Giving citizens the power to sue and recover damages from lawbreakers doesn’t entitle them to carry some sort of Texas deputy badge. It doesn’t turn them into Dog the Bounty Hunter either,” he wrote. “Like other whistleblower laws, the Heartbeat Act merely incentivizes them to uncover and prove serious wrongdoing. And there are few wrongs more terrible than intentionally stopping an innocent child’s heart.
“Instead of waiting to see if a Texas citizen will bring an enforcement action with enough proof of a violation, DOJ seeks to enjoin every person in the state from filing a suit against any abortion clinic at the front end, no matter how egregious or blatant the violation.
“In the name of defending an invented constitutional right to abortion, Attorney General Merrick Garland wants to suspend an actual right found in the Constitution — the due process of law.”
As the Texas legal fight plays out, other states are watching.
Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller said Georgia might consider a similar law next year, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.