Texas heartbeat abortion ban remains in effect amid litigation, federal appeals court rules

Abortion, Texas, New York
People gather for a reproductive rights rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 01, 2021, in Downtown Brooklyn in New York City after Texas' "Heartbeat Bill" went into effect. |

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has allowed a Texas law banning most abortions once a baby's heartbeat is detected to remain in effect during legal proceedings.

In a per curiam order released Thursday evening, the Fifth Circuit panel decided 2-1 to allow the law to remain in effect over the course of the litigation, expanding upon an earlier decision last week that temporarily reinstated the heartbeat abortion ban.

Texas Right to Life Director of Media and Communication, Kimberlyn Schwartz, celebrated the Fifth Circuit panel ruling regarding the heartbeat abortion ban in a statement released Thursday.

“We are excited to continue saving hundreds of lives through the Texas Heartbeat Act. However, the battle is not finished,” Schwartz added.

“We expect the Biden administration to appeal to the [U.S.] Supreme Court ... and we are confident Texas will ultimately defeat these attacks on our life-saving efforts.”

The American Civil Liberties Union took to Twitter to denounce what it called an “outrageous” decision by the panel, which they say prevents “essential abortion care.”

“It’s outrageous but unsurprising that the Fifth Circuit has once again denied people in Texas their fundamental reproductive rights. The Department of Justice should urgently appeal this order to the Supreme Court,” tweeted the ACLU.

“Until it is stopped for good, this cruel ban will continue to wreak havoc, impacting marginalized communities the most.”

In May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 8, a law that prohibits most abortions once a baby's heartbeat can be detected, which is often around six weeks into a pregnancy.

Additionally, the law allows private citizens to take civil action against any person who "performs and induces an abortion" or "knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of abortion through insurance or otherwise."

The state law, which contradicts the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade’s prohibition on banning abortions before viability, took effect on Sept. 1.

The Biden administration and state abortion providers have legally challenged the state law before and since it took effect, arguing that the measure is an attack on women’s health.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the heartbeat abortion ban from being enforced, per the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.

However, shortly after the injunction was given, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed the Pitman ruling, granting temporary relief from the blocking of the law.

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