Judge schedules Oct. 1 hearing on DOJ request to halt Texas abortion law

A federal judge has scheduled an Oct. 1 hearing to consider the Department of Justice’s request to temporarily block a recently enacted Texas law that effectively bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, The Texas Tribune reported.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to block the Texas abortion law, which prohibits the medical procedure after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which can often occur before a woman knows she is pregnant. 

The law is unique in that it allows private citizens to file a lawsuit against people suspected of performing or helping a woman receiving the procedure. Those individuals can be awarded $10,000 for each time they successfully sue.

Late Tuesday night, the Justice Department filed an emergency motion to stop the law from being enforced in the state, arguing that it prevented “women from exercising their constitutional rights.”  

Rather than act on the Biden administration’s request to freeze the law, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Pitman will instead hear arguments prior to issuing a decision at the request of the state, the Tribune reported. 

Texas has until Sept. 29 to make its case opposing the DOJ request, and then the department may respond before Oct. 1. 

The decision to hear arguments means the law will have been in force for at least one month — and will remain in place at least until the judge issues his decision on the DOJ's request.

In response to questions last week from reporters, Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who signed the law in May, defended the legislation, saying that victims of rape were covered under the legislation and that Texas was intent on eliminating rapists from the state. Victims of rape would be able to have an abortion within six weeks of becoming pregnant under the legislation.

“Let’s be clear: rape is a crime,” Abbott said, according to KXAN. “And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.” 

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