A federal judge has placed a temporary block on Texas’ controversial abortion ban, ruling that the law is ‘flagrantly unconstitutional.’
The decision came following a challenge to the law – which bans abortion in almost all cases after six weeks and allows citizens to sue those who help to facilitate an abortion – after the Supreme Court declined to prevent the law from coming into force last month.
In his opinion, Judge Robert Pitman of the US District Court for the Western District of Texas was scathing about the ‘unprecedented and aggressive’ law, which he said ‘unlawfully prevented women from exercising control over their lives.’
‘That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,’ he wrote, per Sky News.
Justice department lawyers arguing the case had described the ban as an ‘unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice.’
The decision is likely to be immediately challenged in the court of appeals, which has previously ruled in favour of the law. However, in the meantime, pro-choice activists have welcomed the ruling, which is the first to strike a blow against the law.
In a statement, women’s reproductive health charity Planned Parenthood said:
It’s been 36 days since Texas deprived its citizens of their constitutional right to abortion. The relief granted by the court today is overdue. We will continue fighting this ban in court, until we are certain that Texans’ ability to access abortion is protected.
Other campaigners warned that in spite of the ban being suspended, it was likely many doctors would continue to refuse to perform abortions over fears that they could be held liable in the future.
Following the decision, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said ‘the fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women’s rights are currently under attack.’
The Supreme Court is set to hear a challenge to Roe v. Wade – the 1973 ruling that guaranteed women’s constitutional right to abortion – later this year.