Texas abortion ban reinstated by appeal court

9 October 2021, 08:03

Pro-choice campaigners march in Texas earlier this month
Pro-choice campaigners march in Texas earlier this month. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

A federal appeal court has allowed Texas to resume a ban on most abortions, just one day after clinics began racing to serve patients again for the first time since early September.

A one-page order by the 5th US Court of Appeals reinstated the nation's strictest abortion law, which bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks.

The law makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Nancy Northup, president of the Centre for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas clinics that had briefly resumed normal abortion services, said: "Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear."

She called on the US Supreme Court to "step in and stop this madness".

Clinics had braced for the New Orleans-based appeals court to act fast after US District Judge Robert Pitman, an appointee of former US president Barack Obama, on Wednesday suspended the Texas law that he called an "offensive deprivation" of the constitutional right to an abortion.

Knowing that order might not stand for long, a handful of Texas clinics immediately started performing abortions again beyond six weeks, and booked new appointments for this weekend.

But barely 48 hours passed before the appeals court set accepted Texas' request to set aside Judge Pitman's ruling - at least for now - pending further arguments.

It gave the Biden administration, which had brought the lawsuit, until Tuesday to respond.

"Great news tonight," Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted. "I will fight federal overreach at every turn."

Texas had roughly two dozen abortion clinics before the law took effect on September 1.

During the brief period the law was on hold, many Texas doctors remained unwilling to perform abortions, fearful that doing so could still leave them in legal jeopardy.

The new law threatens Texas abortion providers with lawsuits from private citizens, who are entitled to collect at least 10,000 dollars (£7,350) in damages if successful.

That novel approach to enforcement is the reason why Texas had been able to evade an earlier wave of legal challenges prior to this week.

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