Late Friday night, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to suspend a federal judge’s injunction that had temporarily blocked enforcement of Texas’s six-week abortion ban, SB 8. The injunction had only been in effect for two days, a confusing period for abortion providers in the state. As had been expected, the conservative-leaning appeals court granted a request from Texas’s Republican attorney general, Ken Paxton, to reverse the injunction.
SB 8, the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country, allows private citizens to sue anyone who assists with an abortion in Texas after six weeks of pregnancy. The de facto abortion ban, which the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court declined to block, has led to a dramatic drop-off in the number of people seeking abortions in Texas since it went into effect in September.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Pitman ordered a preliminary injunction against enforcing SB 8, agreeing with the Justice Department that the law was unconstitutional. Paxton argued that the DOJ didn’t have the authority to sue Texas, and that Pitman had “violated the separation of powers,” since SB 8 isn’t enforced by the state, but by private citizens — a deliberate design to make the law extremely difficult to successfully challenge in the court system.
The Fifth Circuit did not rule on the merits of the appeal, at least yet. The Justice Department has until Tuesday evening to respond to the appeal, and the law will remain enforceable until at least then.