The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled on Thursday that the Texas Heartbeat Act will remain in effect for the time being, refusing the Biden-Harris Justice Department’s request to reinstate a previous injunction from a judge that temporarily blocked the law.
As reported by The Washington Post, the court handed down a 2-1 order consisting of four brief sentences that did not include details explaining the court’s reasoning behind the decision but referenced its prior ruling from last month in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson. At that time, the court stated that because the law allows for private enforcement and the state cannot enforce the law, it also cannot be sued to block the implementation of the law. The Department of Justice is expected to appeal.
The Heartbeat Act restricts abortion in Texas to before a preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected, usually at about six weeks, though the human heart begins beating 16 to 22 days post-fertilization. The law took effect on September 1, 2021, and was immediately challenged by pro-abortion groups who requested that the Supreme Court of the United States intervene to block the law. The Supreme Court refused. The Biden Administration then filed a lawsuit to stop the bill and U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a preliminary injunction to block the law. Two days later, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision temporarily. Now the court has said the law can stand while the lawsuit is worked out in courts.
According to The Washington Post, the appeals court said it would quickly schedule the lawsuit from the Justice Department to be reviewed by the same panel which will take up the lawsuit from abortion providers in December.
In the short two days that the law was blocked, some abortion facilities in Texas resumed abortions, while others, including Planned Parenthood, did not. This is because the Heartbeat Act includes a provision which states that if an abortionist commits an abortion while the law is temporarily blocked, that abortionist can still be sued by a private citizen once the law is back in effect.
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