Federal Court Deals New Blow to Opponents of Texas Abortion Law

A federal court has delivered another blow to abortion proponents fighting a “heartbeat” law in Texas that bars the procedure after fetal cardiac tones are discovered, usually at around six weeks of pregnancy.

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 decision, rejected abortion providers’ request to send the case back to a U.S. district court judge who previously blocked the law.

Instead, according to Politico, the Fifth Circuit sent the case to the Texas Supreme Court, which is what state attorneys were seeking.

“The move by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals effectively prolongs the litigation over the unusual anti-abortion statute, leaving in place a law that has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in the state since the measure took effect in September,” Politico reported.

“The 2-1 court decision held that there was too much ambiguity around the meaning of the Texas law to allow federal courts to continue to act on the legal challenge without definitive guidance from Texas’s top court,” the outlet continued.

The law does not provide for state enforcement; rather, it allows individuals to sue abortion providers if they perform the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Other Republican-led states are considering similar legislation.

Alabama, Florida, Missouri, and Ohio legislatures are considering measures, while Oklahoma state Sen. Sean Roberts (R) has pledged to introduce a version of the law in his state.

“The pro-life citizens of Oklahoma should have the ability to help hold these doctors accountable,” Roberts said in a statement, according to The Hill.

“Individual citizens are an extremely important part of making sure that we are protecting the lives of the unborn. This legislation puts principle into action and I am going to fight extremely hard to get it passed during the upcoming session,” he said.

The Daily Wire reports:

The Fifth Circuit’s decision follows a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court last month remanding the case back to the Fifth Circuit, which Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had requested. The Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to remain in place while narrowing the grounds on which the abortion providers could challenge the law. The court ruled that the case could continue against state licensing officials who oversee health care workers.

Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Marc Hearron expressed doubt about the abortion providers’ case in January after the December 10 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that left the Texas law standing.

“The Supreme Court gave the green light to this vigilante scheme and said if a state wants to pass a law that infringes on a constitutional right and delegate enforcement to the general public, federal courts can’t do anything to stop that. That’s the core of the case,” Hearron noted, according to Politico.

“There’s a part of our case left against these licensing officials, and it’s an important part of the case, but people need to understand that even what’s left is being delayed and strung out while patients across Texas are denied their constitutional rights,” he added.

The U.S. Supreme Court is also considering a Mississippi abortion case after oral arguments in early December. That law bars all abortions after 15 weeks.