Federal appeals court upholds Texas abortion ban
A federal appeals court upheld Texas’ heartbeat abortion ban and sent the lawsuit against the legislation to the Republican-controlled state’s Supreme Court, a decision celebrated by activists pro-life and fought by supporters of the right to abortion.
A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled 2-1 Monday to send abortion clinics’ challenge to the Texas Heartbeat Act passed last year to the Texas Supreme Court , which will likely allow the law to remain in effect. effect for months before a decision is made.
Circuit Judge Edith H. Jones, a Reagan appointee, wrote the majority opinion stating that “federal courts are bound by an authoritative determination of state law by the highest court in the state “.
“Here, it is possible that the federal courts will declare SB 8 constitutionally invalid even though our findings may be based entirely on an erroneous understanding of Texas law,” Jones continued.
“To avoid creating unnecessary friction with an equal sovereign in our federal system, this court reasonably seeks the final say of the Supreme Court of Texas on the matter.”
Circuit Judge Stephen A. Higginson, appointed by Obama, dissented. He believes that by referring the case to the state Supreme Court, the panel is violating an order of the United States Supreme Court.
“SB 8 and its defenders have challenged the authority of the Supreme Court, first by willfully overriding a constitutional right set forth by the Court and now, when verified by this Court, by convincing us, a lower federal court bound to enforce a Supreme Court decision, instead of questioning that detention,” Higginson explained.
Senate Bill 8 was signed into law last May by Governor Greg Abbott. The law, which took effect last September, bans most abortions once a baby’s heartbeat can be detected, usually about six weeks into a pregnancy.
The law is unique in that it allows private citizens to bring civil action against abortion providers or anyone else who assists in obtaining an illegal abortion, with financial reward for successful lawsuits.
The 5th Circuit’s ruling presents concerns for abortion clinics and supporters since the Texas Supreme Court includes nine Republican justices.
Pro-life group Texas Right to Life, which supports the law, celebrated Monday’s panel decision, calling the ruling “good news.”
“This is great news for Texas, as such action is more likely to ensure a fair and favorable ruling, compared to what one might expect from a pro-abortion federal district judge, who the abortion industry asked to send the case,” the group said.
“Beyond that, sending the lawsuit to the Texas Supreme Court is appropriate because the only defendants remaining in the case are state agencies. Most exciting of all is that the Texas Heartbeat Act has withstood another court ruling and continues to save approximately 100 unborn lives every day.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a pro-choice advocacy organization, said in a statement that the panel had “defied a Supreme Court ruling and delayed the calculation of SB 8” .
“As a result, Texans will continue to have to travel hundreds of miles to access abortion care, and those who cannot afford it will be forced to continue their pregnancies,” Northup said. “There is no end in sight for this injustice that has lasted for almost five months.”
SB 8 has been the subject of much litigation, with pro-choice groups and the Biden administration wanting the law struck down as unconstitutional.
Last year, the United States Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to take effect. Last December, the country’s High Court allowed some lawsuits against the ban to proceed, but declined to block the law.
The justices also dismissed a Biden administration appeal against the law, calling it “unforeseenly granted,” or a claim that should not have gone to court.