Back in court this week, abortion activists and Texas officials argued about procedural questions regarding the Texas heartbeat law, which has saved as many as 10,000 unborn babies’ lives so far.
A Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel considered the two sides’ arguments Friday involving the unique private enforcement mechanism in the law and the court that should be next to consider the case, according to Bloomberg Law.
Abortion activists want the case to be sent back to a federal judge who previously blocked the law, while Texas health officials want the Texas Supreme Court to hear it next, the report states. Pro-abortion groups were angry when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the law in December and sent it back to the Fifth Circuit, instead of U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman.
At this point, the court battle is not about the abortion ban itself but the private enforcement mechanism that allows private citizens to sue abortionists who violate the ban on abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.
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Though the legal wranglings are complex, Texas Right to Life pointed out that abortion activists’ goal is simple: Convince a court to block the law.
“Beneath the abortion industry’s legal maneuvers is deep desperation to move quickly to stop the law,” the pro-life organization responded Friday after the hearing. “Abortionists recognize that they are running out of time with an impending decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health that could overturn Roe v. Wade.”
Since Sept. 1, the heartbeat law has stopped almost all abortions in the state. Texas Right to Life estimates as many as 100 unborn babies are being spared from abortion every day. And if the law remains in effect much longer, many Texas abortion businesses may close, according to the Texas Tribune.
At the hearing Friday, three Fifth Circuit judges debated whether to send the case to the Texas Supreme Court to determine the power of certain local officials to act in response to the private lawsuits filed against abortionists.
Here’s more from Bloomberg:
Judges Edith H. Jones, Stephen A. Higginson, and S. Kyle Duncan didn’t give any clues about how they’re likely to rule on the ultimate question of whether the law violates the constitutional right to end a pregnancy before viability, assuming it returns to them.
But Jones and Duncan indicated a willingness to certify a question to Texas’ top court over whether professional licensing board members are proper defendants in the case challenging the law’s validity before sending the suit back to the federal trial court where it started.
Higginson, on the other hand, expressed concerns that by granting certification the Fifth Circuit would be telling the U.S. Supreme Court that its December decision green-lighting the case is nothing more than an advisory opinion.
Pro-life state leaders said they are happy that the law is still in effect, saving unborn babies’ lives every day.
“As the Fifth Circuit untangles the unresolved questions in this case, Texas Right to Life and Pro-Life Texans celebrate that the Texas Heartbeat Act remains in effect, saving an estimated 100 preborn babies every single day,” Texas Right to Life responded.
In December, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit from President Joe Biden and rejected the Texas pro-abortion groups’ request to temporarily block the law while their legal challenge continues through the courts.
While the high court ruled that the Texas abortion businesses may continue with their lawsuit, it also watered down their case by allowing them to sue state licensing officials but not the state judges and clerks who are charged with handling lawsuits spurred by the law.
“The Supreme Court left only a small sliver of our case intact, and it’s clear that this part of the case will not block vigilante lawsuits from being filed,” Marc Hearron, a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Rights, told the AP at the time. “It’s also clear that Texas is determined to stop the plaintiffs from getting any relief in even the sliver of the case that is left.”
Texas abortion businesses admitted a likely defeat as well. They essentially have no way to stop Texas citizens and pro-life groups from filing lawsuits against them, abortionists and abortion staff who help abort unborn babies in violation the law.
A recent study from Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas at Austin the found that, in just the first month, abortions in Texas went down 50 percent. Since then, Texas abortion facility directors have reported even bigger drops in their abortion numbers, as high as 80 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Texas Tribune.
The heartbeat law has the potential to save tens of thousands of unborn babies from abortion every year. In 2020, about 54,000 unborn babies were aborted in Texas, and about 85 percent happened after six weeks of pregnancy, according to state health statistics.
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