A federal judge denied the Department of Justice’s request to temporarily block the enforcement of the controversial Texas abortion ban.
In a one-page decision, United States District Judge Robert Pitman denied the DOJ’s request to grant a temporary restraining order that would have blocked Texas from enforcing the newly passed law that bans all abortions in the state past six weeks while court proceedings unfolded, Newsweek reported.
Pitman, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, ruled that the October 1 hearing to consider blocking the abortion ban will not be rescheduled to a sooner date, which means the ban will remain in place for the next two weeks.
Pitman ruled that the October 1 hearing to consider blocking the abortion ban will not be rescheduled to a sooner date, leaving the ban in place for two weeks
‘This case presents complex, important questions of law that merit a full opportunity for the parties to present their positions to the Court,’ Pitman wrote in his decision on Thursday. ‘Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the United States’ Opposed Motion for Expedited Briefing Schedule… is DENIED.’
Steve Vladeck, professor at the University of Texas School of Law, said that Pitman was ‘going by the book’ with his decision, Newsweek reported.
‘The Court of Appeals already cut off his effort to hold a similar hearing in the challenge to SB 8 brought by Texas abortion providers,’ Vladeck said on CNN. ‘By not issuing a temporary restraining order here, he’s effectively preventing Texas from asking the Court of Appeals to also block this hearing before it happens.’
U.S District Judge Robert Pitman (right) denied the DOJ’s request. Attorney General Merrick Garland (left) blasted the law at a press conference last week in the Justice Department’s first legal action against the legislation
Leen Garza (pictured) participates in a protest with others against the six-week abortion ban at the Capitol in Austin, Texas earlier this month
Furious abortion rights groups have said many women at six weeks do not even know they are pregnant
The DOJ argued in a filing, submitted in a district court in Austin on Tuesday, that the Texas law was enacted ‘to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.’
‘This relief is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States,’ the statement added.
The DOJ said Tuesday that if the restraining order is granted, not only should the law not be enforced but also anyone who tries to enforce SB 8 must be informed they no longer have the authority the law offered them while the matter is being litigated.
The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision earlier this month denied an emergency request to block the bill from taking effect while its most controversial provisions get litigated, but did not rule on the constitutionality of it.
‘In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,’ the court said in the unsigned order.
The Texas law outlaws abortion at the sign of a heartbeat, or around six weeks into a pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The law also deputizes private citizens to report women who get abortions and anyone who helps them to do so, even Uber drivers. Successful plaintiffs are entitled to $10,000 from defendants, though they cannot sue the woman who sought the abortion herself.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a key advocate of the law who signed it in May, promised to ‘eliminate all rape’ since the legislation did not provide for an exception for victims of the crime. ‘Let’s make something very clear – rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.’
The White House has already said the Justice Department and other agencies are looking for what actions they can take to counter the law.
‘There are possibilities within the existing law to have the Justice Department look and see whether there are things that can be done that can limit the independent action of individuals in enforcing in a federal system a state law,’ President Biden said.
Furious abortion rights groups have said many women at six weeks do not even know they are pregnant.
Attorney General Merrick Garland blasted the law at a press conference last week in the Justice Department’s first legal action against the legislation.
‘The statute deputizes all private citizens without any showing of personal connection or injury to serve as bounty hunters,’ Garland added.
The DOJ action marked the second major lawsuit the Biden administration has filed this year trying to block a move by a Republican-controlled state government. The Justice Department sued Georgia in June, challenging the state’s sweeping new voting law.