Texas' heartbeat bill was temporarily blocked by a U.S. District Judge last night, quickly followed by an appeal from the state.
Texas' near-total abortion ban has been in the national spotlight before it even became state law. After an emergency request from The Department of Justice, the bill is now on hold.
After Judge Pittman's ruling and the state's appeal, this law will now be headed, to what some call the most conservative appellate court in the nation, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The otherwise slow-moving judicial system could be picking up the pace.
Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College, suspects the court ruling will be put on hold by the appellate court. Then, either the US government or Texas will head to the Supreme Court.
"Tomorrow, maybe the next week, I think there's a good chance the court ruling is put on hold by the appellate court. At that point, either the US government or Texas will run to the US Supreme Court. We could be at the US Supreme Court maybe the next week or so," Blackman said.
Even though the supreme court initially denied hearing the state's abortion law, Blackman said, "The first case from court considered was before the law went into effect. And that case was premature. In this case, the law is in effect, I think it's a little bit of a different position."
Though the ban is in effect, it appears abortions providers have been airing on the side of caution.
"Merely relying on a trial court's ruling does not save them financial ruin. So I think they're actually more cautious. I've seen their statements and they've been sort of, 'Yeah, we'll start soon.' They didn't exactly say when, but I think there's still a risk for them to go forward now."
Planned Parenthood released a statement saying they see this as a win, with abortion rights temporarily restored, but did not make it clear if procedures would resume.
The statement in full said:
"Across Texas, people have been forced into an impossible position: find the resources to travel hundreds of miles away from home during the COVID-19 pandemic for an abortion, or be denied the health care they need. Since September 1, millions of Texans have been forced to live under this extreme and harmful law. Even one day denies too many patients of their fundamental right to health care. While the Department of Justice’s swift action and the court’s order seek to restore Texans’ options to access abortion in their own state, we understand Texas will immediately appeal Our patients and providers need the courts to allow care to resume. We will keep fighting for our patients and their right to access abortion without government interference.”
While Right to Life Texas released their statement acknowledging the ban they did add that anyone who performs the procedure during this time could face legal repercussions.
Their full statement is the following:
"Those who aid or abet abortions, even if currently permitted by this ruling, could eventually be sued for their actions today.
Texas Right to Life is dedicated to holding the abortion industry accountable to the fullest extent possible under the law. We are confident that the Texas Heartbeat Act will ultimately withstand this legal challenge and succeed where other states’ heartbeat bills have not.
Texas must continue pushing for strong Pro-Life laws that directly challenge the faulty foundation upon which Roe v. Wade was decided and save preborn lives from the violence of abortion."
Right to Life Texas
The way things stand now, Blackman said there is a real risk of performing abortions before the Supreme Court resolves this issue. Especially since the heartbeat bill has a four-year statute of limitations.
So, if an abortion would be performed today, a suit can be brought in as late as October of 2025.