Many on the left were outraged earlier this year when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law a strict new abortion ban that bars the procedure after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy.
President Joe Biden has promised to fight the law, and his Department of Justice (DOJ) has gone to court in an effort to have it blocked. But in a move sure to infuriate the White House, a federal court just dealt their effort a major setback.
As the Washington Examiner reports, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a single-page ruling on Thursday in which he denied the DOJ’s request for an expedited review of the case.
Lawyers with the DOJ were seeking to have the hearing that Pitman had scheduled for Oct. 1 moved up to Sept. 21.
According to Fox News, the Justice Department also sought an injunction to prevent enforcement of the so-called “Heartbeat Act” while it is being litigated, arguing that the legislation effectively prevents women “from exercising their constitutional rights.”
It also pointed to past rulings in which the Supreme Court declared that states may not “prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, a fetal heartbeat is typically detectable at around six weeks of gestation. Meanwhile, unborn babies are usually considered to be viable — meaning they can survive outside the womb with some assistance — at 24 weeks, although some have survived earlier.
“An unprecedented scheme”
In their filings, attorneys with the Biden Justice Department went on to accuse Texas of having created “an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge S.B. 8 in federal court,” according to Fox.
That was a reference to the unique way in which the legislation was written; the law explicitly bars the “state, a political subdivision, a district or county attorney, or an executive or administrative officer or employee of this state or a political subdivision” from enforcing it.
Enforcement is to be carried out “exclusively through the private civil actions” of individual Texans, the law states, rather than via criminal prosecution.
Under the act’s provisions, a private party is permitted to sue any individual who performed or facilitated an abortion other than the mother.
This has left opponents of the law with no one to challenge in court, something the DOJ has slammed as an “attempt to shield a plainly unconstitutional law from review,” as Fox notes. But try as the Biden White House might to usurp states’ rights, thus far, the courts seem to be siding with the GOP.