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Judge Refuses to Immediately Block Texas Heartbeat Ban as Most Abortions Come to Halt

Michael Foust | Contributor | Friday, September 17, 2021
a gavel, judge refuses to block Texas heartbeat ban

Judge Refuses to Immediately Block Texas Heartbeat Ban as Most Abortions Come to Halt

On Thursday, a federal judge denied the Biden administration's request to immediately block Texas' heartbeat abortion ban, saying the law presents complex issues that require presentations by both sides in court.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, a nominee of President Barack Obama, issued a one-page ruling denying the Department of Justice's request for an expedited schedule examining the constitutionality of the law, which went into effect Sept. 1.

Pitman had scheduled a hearing on the law for Oct. 1, but the Department of Justice – not wanting to wait that long – requested an expedited schedule with a court date of Sept. 21.

Pitman, though, refused.

"This case presents complex, important questions of law that merit a full opportunity for the parties to present their positions to the Court," he wrote.

The DOJ's motion for an expedited briefing schedule, he wrote, "is denied."

The law in question requires abortion clinics to test for a fetal heartbeat and prohibits an abortion if one is detected. Typically, that's around six weeks of pregnancy.

The text of the law prohibits state officials from enforcing the law but allows private citizens to sue abortion clinics for damages. It is known as the Texas Heartbeat Act.

A Department of Justice brief noted the "near-unavailability of constitutionally permitted abortions in Texas since S.B. 8 went into effect fifteen days ago."

"Because providers in the State are adhering to S.B. 8, 'the vast majority of women seeking abortions in Texas are being turned away,'" the brief said.

Texas Right to Life said this week it expects Pitman eventually to side with the Department of Justice. The organization also said it will continue defending the law.

"Texas Right to Life is not surprised by the Biden administration's desperate move to stop the Texas Heartbeat Act from saving lives by any means necessary and as quickly as possible," said Elizabeth Graham, vice president of Texas Right to Life. "We expect an impartial court to declare the DOJ's lawsuit invalid."


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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-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.