AUSTIN, Texas (LifeSiteNews) — A federal judge on Wednesday blocked enforcement of the successful pro-life Heartbeat Act in Texas, following the Biden administration’s lawsuit against the state. The law is estimated to have saved over 5,000 babies’ lives in just over a month.
In a 113-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014, granted the Department of Justice’s request to restrict S.B. 8 on Wednesday while denying Texas’ motion to dismiss the injunction pending appeal.
Pitman characterized the heartbeat bill as an “unprecedented and aggressive scheme” designed to “deprive” Texans of a “significant and well-established constitutional right,” namely abortion.
He added that access to abortion is “protected by the Constitution,” thus declaring that “this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”
Under the provisions of Texas S.B. 8, otherwise known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, abortions are prohibited upon the detection of an unborn baby’s heartbeat, effectively making abortion illegal within the state after six weeks of pregnancy. The law also allowed private citizens to sue abortionists who perform abortions after a heartbeat can be perceived.
Instead of having the state prosecute violators, the law “exclusively” empowers private citizens to bring civil suits against abortionists, punishable by a minimum of $10,000 in statutory relief per abortion plus whatever additional injunctive relief is deemed “sufficient to prevent the defendant from violating this chapter or engaging in acts that aid or abet violations of this chapter.”
The Biden administration launched a lawsuit against Texas on September 9 over enacting the new law, requesting judicial intervention to block its enforcement. In an October 1 hearing, Biden’s Department of Justice argued that the pro-life bill violates constitutional rights.
During the three-hour hearing, Justice Department lead attorney Brian Netter claimed Texas is constitutionally unable to ban abortions at six weeks, later referring to the heartbeat bill as an “unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice.”
Will Thompson, an attorney representing Texas in the hearing, characterized Netter’s arguments as “hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric.” He instead suggested that the heartbeat bill “is not some kind of vigilante scheme,” but rather the result of the “lawful process of justice in Texas.”
Though many girls stand to be killed in the womb while the temporary block is in place, President Joe Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland celebrated the ruling as a “victory for women in Texas.”
Texas Right to Life, a group dedicated to ending abortion, said Pitman’s ruling is a “wildly broad” and “astonishing” move, motivated by “extreme prejudice.” While Wednesday’s development is a block on the road to eradicating abortion, the organization remains confident that “the Texas Heartbeat Act will ultimately withstand this legal challenge and succeed where other states’ heartbeat bills have not.”
Responding to the preliminary injunction Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, decried Pitman’s decision as interfering “with the clearly expressed will of Texans.”
“The people of Texas speaking through their state legislators acted to protect unborn children with beating hearts, who are as human as you and me,” Dannenfelser added. “For two generations, the U.S. Supreme Court has tied the hands of states to enact laws protecting unborn children and their mothers. It is time to restore this right to the people and update our laws.”
Dannenfelser said the Heartbeat Act “is estimated to have saved more than 4,700 babies since it took effect over a month ago,” although Texas Values, a pro-life, pro-family advocacy group in Texas, estimates that number to be as high as 5,473 lives said since September 1.
Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney at Texas Values, released his own statement on the injunction, describing Pitman’s ruling as “all politics and no law.”
“No one is surprised that an Obama-appointed judge cooked up some bogus reasons for telling our Texas state judges and clerks that they can’t do their jobs. We know this will be overturned, probably by the end of this week,” he said. “Lives are at stake and we will do everything in our power to protect a baby with a beating heart.”
Just over an hour after Pitman’s ruling was handed down, Texas lawyers indicated that they would appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to a CNN report.