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The latest on the Texas abortion bill

There has been a lot of back and forth with the Texas abortion law – here’s the latest.

The background 

The abortion law, known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, came into effect on September 1, prohibiting abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, or when the first heartbeat is detected.

The law gives private citizens the power to sue abortion providers and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. It is one of the most restrictive in the U.S, and is considered the most dramatic restriction on abortion since the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade. 

Since the law came into effect, around 300 women from Texas have sought abortion care in the neighbouring state of Oklahoma. 

Enter: the Biden Administration 

Biden’s Department of Justice (DoJ) sued the state of Texas on 9 September, claiming the bill violated the U.S. constitution. The DoJ argued the bill impeded women’s constitutional right to an abortion, as it had federal protection in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. 

And it was successful, for around two days 

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman sided with the DoJ and temporarily blocked the ban, preventing the state from enforcing it. Judge Pitman said, “this court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right”. This meant abortions past six weeks could resume. 

However, Texas told the court that it planned to appeal the ruling to the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

And that appeal happened 

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the law, around two days after Judge Pitman’s decision, meaning abortions in Texas (past the six-week mark) were again banned. It still remains undecided whether this decision will be in place in the long term. The Biden Administration now has until Tuesday local time to respond to Texas’ emergency motion. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could then decide whether to stay (delay) the District Court’s injunction (Judge Pitman’s decision).

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