A Texas appeals court has temporarily reinstated the state's extremely strict abortion law. The court thus granted a request by the state of Texas on Friday evening. Just Wednesday, a Texas judge had temporarily halted the law, upholding a lawsuit filed by U.S. President Joe Biden's administration - Texas immediately appealed the decision.
The so-called heartbeat law, which bans most abortions in Texas, has been in effect since early September. It bans abortions once the fetus' heartbeat has been detected. This can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. Many women do not know they are pregnant at this point.
What is unusual about the rule is that it also allows private individuals to take civil action against anyone who helps a woman terminate a pregnancy. The U.S. government referred to this as "bounty hunters" because all people who assist a woman with an abortion in any way can be sued by private individuals. The provision allows lawsuits against a wide range of people - from cab drivers who drive a woman to the clinic to parents who financially assist their daughter in having an abortion.
The appeals court in New Orleans has now ordered the U.S. government to respond by Tuesday while the state of Texas' appeal continues to be considered. The dispute could ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. "This ruling is deeply alarming - and for millions of people in Texas, it creates confusion and inconsistency in access to abortion," the civil rights organization ACLU shared.
Some abortion clinics had resumed performing abortions banned under the heartbeat law on Thursday - though far from all. That's because the clinics must fear being sued after the fact if a higher court overturns the injunction suspending the law again. The current decision by the Court of Appeals in New Orleans is not surprising - the court had previously allowed the law to go into effect.
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra