Pro-life leaders slam decision to halt Texas’ ‘heartbeat’ law

Matt Hadro   By Matt Hadro for CNA

null / Helen Sushitskaya/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Oct 7, 2021 / 08:30 am (CNA).

Pro-life leaders on Wednesday responded to a federal judge blocking Texas’ pro-life “heartbeat” law, just more than one month after the law went into effect.

In a ruling on Wednesday, Oct. 6, Judge Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas halted enforcement of the law by the state and its private citizens. The Texas Heartbeat Act (S.B. 8) restricts most abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat. It is enforced through private civil lawsuits against those performing illegal abortions, as well as against those deemed culpable under the law of assisting in illegal abortions.

The Biden administration filed a complaint requesting a temporary restraining order on the state or anyone filing a lawsuit under the law. Pitman granted that request on Wednesday.

“A person’s right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established,” Judge Pitman wrote in his decision.

In response, pro-life groups criticized the ruling.

“Judge Pittman’s stonewalling of the Texas Heartbeat Act is a shameless example of unfettered judicial activism at its worst,” said Chelsey Youman, Texas state director of the group Human Coalition Action. “His historic injunction has no regard for the rule of law, and is more about partisan politics than a fair judgment of the law.”

“The people of Texas speaking through their state legislators acted to protect unborn children with beating hearts, who are as human as you and me,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

“The Heartbeat Act is estimated to have saved more than 4,700 babies since it took effect over a month ago. Now an unelected judge has interfered with the clearly expressed will of Texans,” she wrote.

It is unclear how many lawsuits were filed under the Texas law.

The Biden administration applauded Wednesday’s ruling. Attorney General Merrick Garland hailed it as “a victory for women in Texas and for the rule of law.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki, in a statement late Wednesday evening, called it “an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas.”

“The fight has only just begun,” she added, noting that Biden “supports codifying Roe v. Wade” and “has directed a whole-of-government response to S.B. 8.”

In his ruling on Wednesday, Judge Pitman wrote that Texas “contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme” that “circumvented the traditional process” of judicial review by allowing private citizens to enforce the law through lawsuits.

Texas has appealed the ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Youman stated that “abortion providers should remain on notice that SB 8 specifically allows them to be held liable for every preborn child who’s heartbeat they end for up to six years.”

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