Reproductive rights advocates lashed out overnight following a ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals which reinstated a near-total ban on abortion in Texas just days after a separate federal court had placed the state’s law on hold pending final judicial review, most likely by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Friday night decision by the 5th Circuit — packed with judges appointed by former President Donald Trump and known as the nation’s most right-wing appellate court — arrived two day after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin issued a 113-page ruling which granted the U.S. Justice Department’s request for an injunction to halt the law, known as S.B. 8, which prevents providers from offering abortion care to women after just six weeks of pregnancy.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, responded with outrage to the 5th Circuit’s ruling that has once again shut down the ability for women in the state to seek care to which they are constitutionally entitled.
“The Supreme Court needs to step in and stop this madness,” said Northrup in a statement. “It’s unconscionable that the Fifth Circuit stayed such a well-reasoned decision that allowed constitutionally protected services to return in Texas.”
Just days after a federal district court blocked Texas's S.B. 8, the 5th Circuit took extraordinary action & allowed the near-total abortion ban to go back into effect—in violation of half a century of precedent upholding the constitutional right to abortion. https://t.co/slidXUmC5u
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) October 9, 2021
After Wednesday’s ruling by Judge Pitman, some clinics in the state attempted to deliver services that had been put on hold by the new law’s implementation.
Noting that the 5th Circuit’s ruling “had been expected by many abortion providers,” the New York Times reported “at least six clinics in Texas had begun conducting abortions beyond the limits of the new law this week” while “most of the state’s roughly two dozen providers had opted not to take that step as the case moved through the courts.”
Northrup said the situation is untenable for women in Texas.
“Patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear,” she said, “and this cruel law is falling hardest on those who already face discriminatory obstacles in health care, especially Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, undocumented immigrants, young people, those struggling to make ends meet, and those in rural areas. The courts have an obligation to block laws that violate fundamental rights.”
Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH) called the decision “devastating” but vowed to continue the legal battle as well as their mission to serve those Texans in need.
“Texas, there are organizers, lawyers, providers, and advocates around the country who are ready to continue following your lead and supporting your needs,” the group tweeted last Friday. “We will keep going, together.”