Federal judge denies DOJ’s bid for expedited briefing in Texas’ abortion law case


A federal judge in Austin late Thursday denied the U.S. Justice Department’s request this week for expedited briefing in its challenge to SB 8, the Texas law that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The order by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman says that the case presents “complex” and “important” questions that merit giving each party the full opportunity to present their positions to the court.

On Tuesday, the district court denied the DOJ’s emergency motion request for a injunction on the abortion ban until the case is decided. On Wednesday, Pitman set an Oct. 1 hearing on the U.S. request.

The “Heartbeat Act” enforcement mechanism is unique in that private citizens can sue anyone — such as providers, friends, family, and clergy — who “aids and abets” a elective abortion after fetal heartbeats are detected. Private citizens can sue for $10,000 plus legal fees. The law took effect Sept. 1.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling denied an emergency request to block SB 8 from going into effect. Although elective abortion is federally legal through the decision in Roe v. Wade in the U.S., SB 8 has, for the time being, circumvented its enforcement in Texas.

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