Federal appeals court temporarily reinstates Texas’ 6-week abortion ban

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People take part in the Women’s March ATX rally, Oct. 2, at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The march was a response to a Texas law that bans most abortions.

Stephen Spillman/AP

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Stephen Spillman/AP

A U.S. judge blocks enforcement of Texas’ controversial new abortion law

Instead of being enforced by state agencies, Texas lawmakers drafted the law to be enforced by private citizens. SB 8 allows anyone – including people who don’t live in Texas – to sue someone, who they believe provided an abortion after six weeks, for a minimum of $10,000 in damages. It also holds anyone liable who «aides or abets» someone who gets the procedure after the limit.

Near-total shutdown of abortions

Out of fear of possible litigation, many providers had shut down all abortion services or have adhered to the strict limit. Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO and founder of Whole Woman’s Health, recently told reporters her staff had been living with the fear of being sued.

«These folks don’t have attorneys or funds to hire attorneys,» she said. «Many of our physicians have opted out of providing care while SB 8 is in effect – it being just too risky for them to do so.»

Abortion providers in Texas say a lower court ruling that temporarily blocked the law provided a short reprieve from SB 8 restrictions. Anticipating the federal appeals court would quickly overturn the lower court ruling, only a few clinics in the state expanded their abortion services past six weeks.

Abortion providers have said they are hoping they get more permanent relief from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court was asked to intervene when the law was first going into effect, but justices declined. Since the law has been in effect, abortion providers have petitioned the Court, again. So far, the Court has not responded.

Abortion providers have said one of the longer-term concerns is what will happen to their clinics if the law continues to stay in effect. Hagstrom Miller said providers are facing serious financial strains as they turn away the majority of people seeking an abortion.

She said access to abortion in the state could be permanently altered if the law isn’t blocked as the legal challenges move through the courts.

«If clinics close because SB 8 is enforced long enough,» Hagstrom Miller said, «the damage will be done, even if it’s eventually struck down.»

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