Late Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Texas, U.S. Judge Robert Pittman issued a temporary restraining order to block the implementation of the Texas Heartbeat Act. This ruling follows the emergency motion for a temporary restraining order requested by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Obama-appointed U.S. Judge Pittman lambasted Texas for the Heartbeat Act and the measures the act uses.
“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established. With full knowledge that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the State contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme,” he said in his ruling.
The Heartbeat Act does not use law enforcement as the chosen method of implementation, but rather private citizens to ensure compliance by utilizing lawsuits and the court system to prosecute individuals who assist in abortions, not individuals who have abortions. This legal maneuver seemed to infuriate Judge Pittman, for he went on to state that “this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement of support for the restraining order, calling the ruling “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.” He went on to say, “It is the foremost responsibility of the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution. We will continue to protect constitutional rights against all who would seek to undermine them.”
However, Texas Right to Life stated that since “an individual being sued under the [heartbeat] law cannot claim as an affirmative defense that they were acting under the protection of a court order that had since been reversed or overturned,” per Section 171.208(e)(3) of the Texas Health and Safety Code, “those who aid or abet abortions, even if currently permitted by this ruling, could eventually be sued for their actions today.”
Texas will seek an appeal to the restraining order in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is generally a court favorable to conservative causes.