Texas abortion clinics in limbo as Heartbeat Act faces legal challenges

The Texas Heartbeat Act is back in effect after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District granted a “temporary administrative stay” on Friday against an injunction handed down by a lower court judge.

Now, The Washington Times reports that clinics across the Lone Star State have been forced to suddenly close their doors as the legal battle continues.

The preliminary injunction, handed down at the district court level, initially stopped the law from going into effect. But as the Washington Examiner reports, the new stay halts the injunction, at least for the time being.

The appellate court’s decision came late on Friday at the request of Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas who argued the district court had no authority to grant the injunction in the first place. The panel on the 5th Circuit apparently agreed.

The scramble

The changing court decisions have resulted in something of a scramble in Texas, where roughly two dozen abortion clinics are in limbo, struggling to decide whether to comply with the law or face the consequences.

After the preliminary injunction was granted at the district court level, most abortion providers decided not to go back to performing abortions, according to reports, apparently worried that the law would be reinstated and that they’d be retroactively punished.

But as many as six clinics did briefly go back to performing abortions that would reportedly violate the new law.

It remains to be seen if any cases will be filed against them.

The law

As the name suggests, the Texas Heartbeat Act makes abortions illegal in the state at the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected, or as early as around six weeks of pregnancy.

It’s said by many to be the strongest restriction on abortion since Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that saw the U.S. Supreme Court effectively invent the right to an abortion in America.

What makes Texas’ law different from other, similar statutes that have failed to live up to SCOTUS scrutiny is the enforcement mechanism: the law puts the burden of enforcement in the hands of Texas residents, who are allowed to bring civil lawsuits against violators.

The law is currently being challenged by the Biden administration, which has yet to comment upon the latest legal ruling.

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