AUSTIN, Texas – Texas may continue to ban most abortions after a federal appeals court on Thursday rejected the Biden administration’s latest attempt to overturn a new law that has become the nation’s biggest drag on abortion in almost 50 years.
This brings Texas law closer to returning to the United States Supreme Court, which in September allowed the state to move forward with the abortion ban once heart activity is detected, typically around six weeks. No exceptions are made in cases of rape or incest.
Since then, women in Texas have sought abortion clinics in neighboring states, certain hours of driving in the middle of the night, and patients as young as 12.
The new ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals extends a previous order that currently upholds Texas law known as Senate Bill 8. This is the third time since October that the conservative-leaning appeals court has sided with Texas and allowed restrictions to remain.
This leaves a narrow path for the Department of Justice and Texas abortion providers to try to stop the law, which has so far prevailed due to a single structure that leaves enforcement to private citizens. Anyone who successfully sues an abortion provider for violating the law has the right to claim at least $ 10,000 in damages, which the Biden administration says amounts to a premium.
Despite numerous court challenges before and after the law came into force on September 1, a court only once asked to suspend the restriction – and that order only lasted 48 hours.
During that brief window, some clinics in Texas have rushed to perform abortions on female patients in the past six weeks, but many more appointments have been canceled after the 5th Circuit decided to quickly restore the law. . The Biden administration could now request a new hearing or go directly to the Supreme Court, just as abortion providers were tried unsuccessfully in August.
Texas had about two dozen abortion clinics before the law came into effect, and operators have said some could be forced to shut down if restrictions remain in place for much longer.
The stakes are already high in the months to come regarding the future of abortion rights in the United States. In December, the new Conservative majority in the Supreme Court will hear Mississippi’s proposal to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a woman’s right to an Abortion.
A 1992 Supreme Court ruling prevented states from banning abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks gestation. But the Texas version has foiled the courts so far on the grounds that it offloads law enforcement onto private citizens.
Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, set up a hotline to receive allegations against abortion providers, but did not file any complaints.