Fifth Circuit to hear oral arguments for Texas Heartbeat Act in January

Satanic Temple case, pro-life, abortion law, Planned Parenthood

On Monday, December 27, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals announced that it will hear oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, a lawsuit brought by abortionists against Texas officials concerning enforcement of that state’s Heartbeat Act, also known as SB 8. 

The Heartbeat Act prohibits abortion after a preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected, and relies upon civil litigation against abortionists who defy the law as its enforcement mechanism. It has been estimated that approximately 100 lives are being saved every day as a result of the law, which has caused many abortionists to quit working in Texas. The law has remained in place for 121 days.

In its announcement of oral arguments in this case, the Fifth Circuit emphasized “that by scheduling and hearing oral arguments, there is no intent to prejudge the merits of the motion or response,” and stated that it was “particularly interested in questions concerning justiciability as to the defendants remaining in this suit, and the necessity and appropriateness of certification to the Texas Supreme Court.”

Texas state judge David Peeples recently ruled that Texas Right to Life and Legislative Director Dr. John Seago cannot sue Planned Parenthood and 13 other specific abortion providers under SB 8 provisions. However, this ruling did not block enforcement of the Heartbeat Act in general. Texas Right to Life plans to appeal the ruling.

READ: Texas pro-life group faces increased threats since enactment of Texas Heartbeat Act

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court dismissed the Biden-Harris administration’s federal lawsuit against the state of Texas. They also ruled that the Texas law could remain in-place while simultaneously allowing the suit brought by the abortion companies to proceed. However, the Court ruled that the abortionists cannot sue judges, court clerks, the Attorney General, or private citizens, and limited the potential defendants to state health officials. The Court did not rule on the law’s Constitutionality; rather, its opinion stated: “[T]he ultimate merits question, whether S.B. 8 is consistent with the Federal Constitution, is not before the Court.”

A few days later, the Court granted the abortionists’ request to remand the case to a lower court, sending it back to the Fifth Circuit, as requested by Texas officials. The Fifth Circuit has already upheld the Texas law twice. Texas officials plan to ask the Fifth Circuit court to direct the Texas Supreme Court to rule on the question of state licensing officials’ ability to enforce the ban before the case is sent back to a federal district court.

Oral arguments will be held at 9am on Friday, January 7 before the Fifth Circuit court in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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