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Federal Appeals Court Hears Revived Challenge Over Texas Abortion Law

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

On Friday, a three-judge federal appeals court panel signaled that they will keep Texas’ near-total abortion ban in place for the timebeing.

The law at the center of the lawsuit, S.B. 8, bans abortions in Texas after fetal heartbeat detection. The law allows private citizens to pursue legal action against anyone who provides an illegal abortion or aids or abets an illegal abortion. Those who successfully bring lawsuits under S.B. 8 can receive $10,000.

As reported by Politico, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals indicated that it’s likely to let the Texas Supreme Court rule on the constitutionality of S.B. 8.

“The panel from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals indicated that it's likely to side with the state's request to let the Texas Supreme Court rule on the ban's constitutionality — a move that could prolong its enforcement for months — and even suggested holding off a decision about who should hear the challenge until the fate of Roe v. Wade is decided later this year.

‘Maybe we should just sit on this until the end of June and leave the hot potato with the Supreme Court,’ suggested Judge Edith Jones, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan.

Friday's deliberations followed the U.S. Supreme Court's December ruling that left the Texas law intact but allowed some challenges to proceed — including the question of whether Texas officials can use the law to strip medical licenses from doctors and nurses who perform abortions after about six week of pregnancy. The 5th Circuit will decide the venue for that challenge, with a decision possible in the next few weeks.”

As I covered, last month the United States Supreme Court allowed S.B. 8 to remain in effect after abortion providers and the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Texas over the law. The Supreme Court returned the abortion providers’ lawsuit to the Fifth Circuit and did not allow the DOJ’s lawsuit to move forward.

Ahead of the Fifth Circuit's hearing this month, the abortion providers in the lawsuit asked the Supreme Court to return the case back to the District Court, where an Obama-appointed judge previously ruled in their favor, as Townhall reported

“Friday’s hearing was tense, with judges repeatedly snapping at each other and at the attorneys arguing the case,” Politico noted. “Jones at one point scolded Marc Hearron with the Center of Reproductive Rights, who argued on behalf of the Texas clinics, that the hearing was ‘not a press conference.’”

On Dec. 1, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a separate case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which surrounds a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. Dobbs could overturn landmark abortion cases Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. A decision is expected this summer.

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