In a ruling savaging Texas' new abortion law, a federal judge has blocked the implementation of Senate Bill 8, calling it an "aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right."
The U.S. Department of Justice asked U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, which the Austin-based judge granted.
"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," Pitman wrote.
The ruling is the first step in a broader battle between Texas and the U.S. over abortion, but a Mississippi case at the U.S. Supreme Court could decide the fate of abortion in the nation before this current battle is resolved.
Texas has vowed to continue fighting to support the law, which features the novel concept of allowing private citizens to file a lawsuit against those suspected of having an abortion or providing abortion services.
In Pitman's opinion, the citizen-based enforcement drew his ire.
"This law is not a question of a one-time, excessive, and unnecessary resource investment needed to comply with a law," Pitman wrote. "It is an ongoing, wide-ranging, and debilitating burden on anyone associated with providing abortions, sufficient to effectively cut off access to the medical procedure entirely."
See @steve_vladeck's post on Twitter.
The law provided that plaintiffs could seek $10,000 in damages for every abortion performed. Pittman said this was an undue burden. He also faulted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for making a clear argument in his case.
The federal government's key reason to sue was that Texas was using pre-emption to make an end-run around the constitution. For instance, Texas argued that federal facilities, including the Department of Defense, must comply with state law. Pitman, again, faulted Texas' argument.
"States may not subject federal officers to liability by states for carrying out their federal duties," Pittman wrote.
In the 113-page decision, Pitman said ample examples of the law's problematic implementation and interference with federal law.
"The United States has sufficiently established that S.B. 8 conflicts with the laws and regulations governing the abortion-related services of its agencies, as it would subject them to liability for carrying out their mandates to provide or facilitate pre-viability abortions," Pitman argued.
Read the ruling here: https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21079935/10-6-21-us-v-texas-preliminary-injunction.pdf