Federal appeals court decision sets stage for Texas' six-week abortion ban to go into effect this week

Lorie Shaull via Whole Women's Health
A Texas law that bans abortions before many women are even aware they're pregnant will likely take effect Wednesday, after a federal appeals court canceled a hearing where women's health groups sought to block the measure.

On Friday night, the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scrapped a Monday hearing at which more than 20 abortion providers planned to argue that the new law — arguably the nation's strictest — would create legal disarray by allowing virtually anyone to sue a person they claim violated the law, the Texas Tribune reports. Some have called the measure a virtual ban on the medical procedure.

Women's health groups have sued to overturn Senate Bill 8, which prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Courts have repeatedly rejected other states' so-called heartbeat bills as unconstitutional because they deny abortion access before many women are aware they're pregnant.

Groups including the Whole Woman's Health Alliance and Planned Parenthood filed emergency motions with the 5th Circuit, asking it to temporarily block the law's enforcement or to send the case back to district court, the Tribune reports.

Abortion providers have warned that if the law isn't blocked while court challenges play out, it could temporarily shut down clinics or slash the number of procedures they can perform.

“If this law is not blocked by September 1, abortion access in Texas will come to an abrupt stop,” Marc Hearron, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement shared with the Tribune.

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