Federal appeals court keeps Texas abortion law on the books for now

Senate Bill 8 includes the most restrictive rules in the country, effectively banning abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy and making no exception for rape or incest.

By Michael MarksOctober 15, 2021 10:16 am, ,

A ruling Thursday night by a three-member panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the Texas abortion law, known as Senate Bill 8, to remain in effect – at least for the time being.

The provisions in SB 8 include the most restrictive abortion rules in the country. It effectively bans abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy – before most people know that they are pregnant – and it makes no exception for rape or incest.

Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law, it has been on a roller coaster of litigation. The U.S. Justice Department sued the state of Texas over the law, arguing that it violates Roe vs. Wade – the Supreme Court precedent. The department is also challenging a part of SB 8 that empowers people to file civil suits against anyone who aids or abets an abortion after six weeks. That could include a doctor providing an abortion or even someone who drove a person to an abortion appointment.

Abortion providers, doctors, women’s rights groups and even the U.S. government are battling to overturn the law. Though a lower court had briefly suspended SB 8, the law’s on-again off-again journey through the courts has made it almost impossible for abortion providers to plan for the future.

“We are making multiple plans,” said Marva Sadler, senior director of clinical services for Whole Woman’s Health, which has locations across Texas. Sadler spoke to KERA North Texas this week.  “We’ve had to make the ‘what if’ plan for this scenario and ‘what if’ plan for that scenario, and usually by the time we finish with one of those plans another scenario comes as well. And so we just don’t know what is going to happen.”

The federal government is expected to appeal the Fifth Circut’s ruling to the supreme court. Until then, the law will remain in place as written.