Texas asks appeals panel to reinstate abortion ban

Texas asks appeals panel to reinstate abortion ban
© GETTY IMAGES

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on Friday asked a federal appeals court to suspend an order blocking the state's six-week abortion ban while the ruling is appealed.

Paxton asked the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay of the ruling from Judge Robert Pitman, which earlier this week blocked the nation's strictest abortion ban.

The move was expected, and comes after Pitman failed to grant Paxton's request for a stay in the event he ruled against the state.

ADVERTISEMENT

Pitman on Wednesday night sided with the Biden administration, which had filed a request to prevent Texas from enforcing the law as the court considers a Justice Department lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. 

Pitman said the State "forfeited the right" to any kind of stay "by pursuing an unprecedented and aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right."

In his request Friday, Paxton said the federal government had no standing to sue, so the district court's order was invalid. 

"This  Court’s immediate intervention is necessary to vindicate Texas’s sovereign interest in preventing a single federal district court from superintending every Texas court," he wrote in the appeal.

The appeal asks the court to grant an emergency stay by Tuesday morning and to temporarily suspend Pitman’s injunction “as soon as possible.”

Six-week abortion bans have been blocked in other states previously, but the Texas law is unique. It empowers private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who they suspect helps someone in the state get an abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is usually around six weeks—and before some women know they are pregnant. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Because of that, Paxton argued the state was an improper plaintiff and couldn't be sued, because private citizens were taking action to enforce the law, not state officials. 

"Texas has no legal relationship with the private individuals who may make use of S.B. 8’s  private cause of action," Paxton wrote. The court cannot "hold Texas responsible for the filings of private citizens that Texas is powerless to prevent."

It's not clear how quickly the conservative-leaning panel will act, but any action will likely bring the issue back before the Supreme Court, which narrowly allowed the law to take effect about a month ago.