A federal judge in the United States on Wednesday temporarily blocked a Texas law banning most abortions, calling it an “offensive deprivation” of a constitutional right, AP reported.
The law, which came into effect on September 1, bans abortions as soon as cardiac activity is detected. This usually happens around the sixth week of pregnancy.
The law, known as Senate Bill 8, does not provide for exceptions in cases of incest or rape, according to AFP. It empowers anyone to file a lawsuit against a person who assisted in an abortion that contravened the law.
People who file such lawsuits can be given rewards of $10,000 if the cases lead to prosecution. This provision has led to accusations by citizens and activists that the legislation encourages people to act as vigilantes.
US District Judge Robert Pitman stayed the law in response to a case filed by the federal government’s Justice Department seeking a temporary injunction on it.
“From the moment S.B. 8 [the law] went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” the judge said in his order.
He asserted that the court “will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right”.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the judgement was “an important step forward toward restoring the constitutional rights of women across the state of Texas”, Reuters reported.
“The fight has only just begun, both in Texas and in many states across this country where women’s rights are currently under attack,” she added.
Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organisation working on sexual health care in the United States, said that the court relief was overdue. “We are grateful that the Department of Justice moved quickly to seek it,” the organisation’s chief Alexis Mcgill said.
On the other hand, Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, said that the order was not unexpected, AP reported. The group’s spokesperson Kimberlyn Schwartz described the verdict as an instance of “activist judges bending over backwards, bending precedent, bending the law, in order to cater to the abortion industry”.
“These activist judges will create their conclusion first: that abortion is a so-called constitutional right and then work backwards from there,” Schwartz added.
The Texas government has notified the court that it intends to appeal against the verdict.