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Kamis, 07 Oktober 2021

US judge blocks Texas near-total abortion ban while legal challenges continue - ABC News

A US federal judge temporarily blocked a near-total ban on abortion in Texas, the toughest such law in the United States, following a challenge from President Joe Biden's administration after the US Supreme Court let it proceed.

The action by US District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin prevents the state from enforcing the Republican-backed law, which prohibits women from obtaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, while litigation over its legality continues.

The case is part of a fierce legal battle over abortion access in the United States, with numerous states pursuing restrictions.

"This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right," Judge Pitman said in his ruling.

The ink was barely dry on Judge Pitman's order before Texas notified the court that it intended to appeal the ruling to the conservative-leaning Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, setting the stage for the next phase of the legal battle.

"Tonight's ruling is an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement late on Wednesday.

"The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women's rights are currently under attack," she added.

President Biden's Justice Department sued Texas on September 9 and sought a temporary injunction against the law, arguing during an October 1 hearing that the measure violated the US constitution.

The US Supreme Court on September 1 let the new law take effect in a 5-4 vote powered by conservative justices.

That law makes no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

It also lets ordinary citizens enforce the ban, rewarding them at least $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who helped provide an abortion after foetal cardiac activity is detected.

Critics of the law have said this provision enables people to act as anti-abortion bounty hunters.

The Justice Department argued that the law impeded women from exercising their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, which was recognised in the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalised abortion nationwide.

The department also argued that the law improperly interfered with the operations of the federal government to provide abortion-related services.

US Attorney-General Merrick Garland lauded the ruling as a "victory for women in Texas".

Sexual health care provider Planned Parenthood said the preliminary injunction meant lawsuits filed under the new law cannot be accepted by Texas courts.

"The relief granted by the court today is overdue, and we are grateful that the Department of Justice moved quickly to seek it," Planned Parenthood chief executive Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has defended the legality of the state's new abortion law, with this office saying in a statement: "The most precious freedom is life itself."

Judge Pitman heard about three hours of arguments for the Justice Department's request.

Justice Department attorney Brian Netter called the law an "unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice" that must be struck down.

A man with grey hair gestures at a lectern.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has defended the legality of the law, saying, "the most precious fredom is life itself".(

Reuters: Lucas Jackson

)

Will Thompson, an attorney in the Texas Attorney-General's Office, countered the department's arguments, saying there were plenty of opportunities for people in Texas to challenge the law on their own.

Mr Thompson said the Justice Department's arguments were filled with "hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric".

US conservatives have long sought to have Roe v Wade overturned.

On December 1, the US Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a separate case involving a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Mississippi has asked the US Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 precedent. 

Reuters

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2021-10-07 08:16:25Z
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