State Judge Says Abortion Law Goes Against Texas Constitution

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The infamous abortion ban that remains on the books in Texas has been declared to be unconstitutional by a judge in the state, although this judge didn’t block the ban’s overall enforcement.

The judge, State District Judge David Peeples, specifically stated that the law stands in violation of the Texas Constitution, but his conclusions only apply to 14 cases connected to the law with which he was dealing. The law establishes that private interests can sue those suspected of involvement in the procurement of an illegal abortion, and that’s the main avenue of enforcing the ban. In this instance, those 14 cases were combined, and Peeples concluded the anti-abortion organization known as Texas Right to Life “cannot file lawsuits against the 14 plaintiffs for helping others get an abortion disallowed by the Texas law,” as The Texas Tribune explains.

Among other issues, though, is the fact that other interests would still be permitted to file abortion ban-connected lawsuits against these plaintiffs. John Seago, who works as legislative director at Texas Right to Life, stated that his organization is appealing — although he also self-confidently stated in the meantime that it “is just as risky for the abortion industry to perform a post-heartbeat abortion tomorrow as it has been for the last 100 days.” Troublingly, the Texas legislation establishing this abortion ban, which covers abortions following some six weeks of pregnancy, allows for lawsuits to be brought over abortions if courts acted and the procedures were technically allowed at the time but court findings against the ban are later overturned on appeal.

In his conclusions, Peeples shared concerns about the usage of private lawsuits as an enforcement mechanism. As he put it, referring to the anti-abortion law:

‘In sum, if SB 8’s civil procedures are constitutional, a new and creative series of statutes could appear year after year, to be enforced by eager ideological claimants, who could bring suit in their home counties, where the judges would do their constitutional duty and enforce the law. Pandora’s Box has already been opened a bit, and time will tell.’

Marsha Jones, who works as executive director of The Afiya Center, which focuses on the reproductive rights of Black Texas residents and was one of the plaintiffs in the proceedings that Peeples handled, shared hope in the meantime. As she put it, Peeples’s “ruling is a beacon of hope for Texans continuing to fight against this cruel and unconstitutional near-total abortion ban… Even if this ban is eventually permanently blocked, there’s so much work still to be done to ensure that Black communities actually have the ability to grow the families we want… We need our lawmakers to take action.”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently weighed in on the law, allowing for lawsuits to proceed against executive licensing officials in the state who would take retaliatory action against medical facilities found to have violated the ban — although the court both allowed the law to remain in effect while challenges unfold and blocked lawsuits against other officials in the state.