The judge said he was particularly concerned about the design of Texas law, which aims to make it difficult for proponents of abortion law to challenge it, as there is no direct enforcement by state officials or prosecutors.
“It is above all the deliberate drafting of the law by state actors with the primary purpose of avoiding judicial review that distinguishes it – and makes it particularly likely that this court will prescribe it,” wrote Pitman, a presidential-appointed Barack Obama co-ordinator Based in Austin, Texas.
The White House and the Justice Department praised the decision.
“Today’s ruling is an important step in restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. She added, “The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states around the country where women’s rights are currently under attack.”
“Today’s verdict, made by Texas law, is a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The Ministry of Justice’s most important job is to defend the Constitution. We will continue to protect constitutional rights against anyone who tries to undermine them. “
Texas attorneys had asked Pitman to suspend his decision if he upheld the federal request for an injunction, but he refused to allow such a delay.
“The state has forfeited the right to such adjustment by pursuing an unprecedented and aggressive plan to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right,” the judge wrote. “Since SB 8 came into force, women have been illegally prevented from controlling their lives in a constitutionally protected manner.”
Within about an hour of Pitman posting his decision, Texas filed a complaint against the decision to the 5th US Court of Appeals in New Orleans, the outcome of which is likely to reach the Supreme Court within a few weeks.
Abortion providers complained that the new law dramatically restricted abortion options in Texas, despite the fact that the right to abortion has been protected by Supreme Court precedents for nearly half a century.
Shortly after the law went into effect on September 1, the Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to reject an offer from abortion providers to block it. The judges, however, expressed doubts about the constitutionality of the so-called Heartbeat Act, which seeks to prohibit abortions performed after a fetus has reached six weeks of gestation – when heart activity is typically detected. The higher court also left the possibility of further legal action open.
The district court’s ruling ends the 36-day period in which, for the first time since, nearly all abortions across the country have been halted Roe versus Wade was decided in 1973.
“We hope that the court’s order to block SB 8 will allow abortion providers in Texas to resume their services as soon as possible,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood.
However, some clinics may still be reluctant to re-offer abortions after six weeks of gestation as a provision in Texas law allows them to be sued for abortions if an injunction is in place when the law is later reinstated by a higher court will.
“This lockdown is temporary and we’re not yet sure what this means for care,” said a spokesman for Whole Woman’s Health, an organization that operates several abortion clinics across the state and who participated in the lawsuit.
Wednesday’s decision could also disrupt efforts in Florida, South Dakota and several other states to pass copycat laws.
The Capitol Hill Democrats celebrated the verdict but called for legislative action, pointing to the precarious state of abortion law in the hands of a right-wing Supreme Court that is due to be reconsidered Roe versus Wade In December. Should the Supreme Court, after hearing a Mississippi case in December, decide that states can ban the trial before the point of fetal viability, laws like the one in Texas will grow rapidly.
“We cannot continue to rely on the whims of the courts in this fight,” said MP Diana DeGette (D-Col.), Co-chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus of Congress.
DeGette and her colleagues are urging the Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, a law introducing federal safeguards for access to abortion, which narrowly missed the House of Representatives last month and is currently awaiting a Senate vote that is not expected that she will survive.
Part of Pitman’s decision to block a law he deemed manifestly unconstitutional was read like a response to the Supreme Court for failing to intervene a little over a month ago when he first got the chance.
“It is up to them for other courts to find a way to avoid that conclusion; This court will not sanction this offensive deprivation of such an important right for another day, ”Pitman wrote.