A federal district judge ordered Texas to suspend its abortion bounty hunter law in a remarkable opinion on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman minced no words in a 113-page takedown of the law.
Acknowledging that his was not the last word in a case that is likely headed to the Supreme Court, Pitman basically said he didn’t care—he wasn’t going to stay his judgment. That’s going to be up to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. For Pitman’s part, “The State has forfeited the right to any such accommodation by pursuing an unprecedented and aggressive scheme to deprive its citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right. From the moment S.B. 8 went into effect, women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution. That other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion is theirs to decide; this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”
As predicted, Texas is appealing.
“Though the court’s ruling offers a sigh of relief, the threat of Texas’ abortion ban still looms over the state as cases continue to move through the courts. We already know the politicians behind this law will stop at nothing until they’ve banned abortion entirely,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Brigitte Amiri said in a statement. “This fight is far from over, and we’re ready to do everything we can to make sure every person can get the abortion care they need regardless of where they live or how much they make.”
The lawsuit was brought by the Biden administration, and in a Twitter thread analyzing Pitman’s decision, Imani Gandy highlights Pitman's rebuttal to Texas’ argument that the United States government has not suffered harm from the abortion ban, which allows anyone to sue any person who “aids or abets” an abortion performed after six weeks for $10,000 and attorneys’ fees. Pitman offers a list of federal agencies that “aid or abet” abortions, exposing the agencies or their employees to vigilante claims under the Texas law.
But the next courts to hear the case are dominated by partisan Republicans who … don’t really care about the law, let alone women’s right to self-determination or privacy or medical care. Pitman methodically answered many of the outs Texas was trying to use, but the higher courts may still embrace those, dismissing precedent and logic and common f’ing sense.
Texas isn’t even the main game in far-right efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, though. That’s coming on Dec. 1 in Supreme Court arguments about a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, with Mississippi officials making clear that yes, this is an effort to overturn Roe. It’s all too likely that the Trump Supreme Court will jump on this chance to gut women’s reproductive rights.
In response to that imminent threat, a group of reproductive rights groups have shifted their stance on the filibuster, coming out in favor of filibuster reform or abolition for the first time. “We won’t stand for senators hiding behind the abortion issue and opposing reform in our name,” said Shaunna Thomas of UltraViolet. “We cannot rely on the courts right now, so we’re working with what we have, which is a Dem majority which has promised two things to the women of color who put them in office—the right to vote and the right to control when they have children.”