A federal judge on Wednesday blocked Texas’ heartbeat abortion ban, chiding the state for “adopting a scheme designed to evade” judicial review and maintaining that “pregnant people” have a constitutional right to a pre-viability abortion.
The injunction by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, a nominee of President Barack Obama, prevents the enforcement of a new Texas law that prohibits abortion if a fetal heartbeat is present. Typically, that occurs around six weeks of pregnancy.
The Biden administration had brought the suit.
For weeks, Texas Right to Life had warned Pitman likely would rule against the law. Pro-lifers say they will appeal the decision to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established,” Pitman wrote. “Fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the State contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that.”
Pitman also sided with progressives in his language, preferring the term “pregnant person” over “women” and using “cardiac activity” instead of “heartbeat.”
“The Court recognizes that not all pregnant people identify as women,” Pitman wrote.
Under the text of Texas’ unique law, enforcement is the sole responsibility of private citizens, who are given the power to sue doctors in violation of the law.
“The State created a private cause of action by which individuals with no personal interest in, or connection to, a person seeking an abortion would be incentivized to use the state’s judicial system, judges, and court officials to interfere with the right to an abortion,” Pitman wrote. “Rather than subjecting its law to judicial review under the Constitution, the State deliberately circumvented the traditional process. It drafted the law with the intent to preclude review by federal courts that have the obligation to safeguard the very rights the statute likely violates.”
Pitman’s decision orders the Texas Attorney General to “inform all state court judges and state court clerks” of the injunction against the law.
Texas Right to Life called the decision “astonishing.”
“This is the legacy of Roe v. Wade: Judges catering to the abortion industry, crafting a conclusion first and then searching the depths of legal literature for a rationale later,” Texas Right to Life said. “... Until a higher court intervenes, the disappointing reality is that Pitman’s ruling will likely stop the Texas Heartbeat Act from being enforced.”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.