By Ashley Sadler
A federal appeals court has given orders to dismiss all challenges to the unique enforcement mechanism of Texas’s pro-life Heartbeat Act, which empowers private citizens to file civil lawsuits against abortionists.
The U.S. 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday remanded the primary lawsuit opposing the enforcement method of the Heartbeat Act (SB 8) back to district court Judge Robert Pitman, with orders to dismiss all challenges.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered district court Judge Robert Pitman to dismiss challenges to the Texas Heartbeat Act, effectively ending the primary lawsuit over the relatively new state law. https://t.co/MbyNa0WwKq
— 12NewsNow (@12NewsNow) April 27, 2022
“Having received the ruling of the Texas Supreme Court that named official defendants may not enforce the provisions of the Texas Heartbeat Act… this court REMANDS the case with instructions to dismiss all challenges to the private enforcement provisions of the statute and to consider whether plaintiffs have standing to challenge,” the ruling stated.
Tuesday’s decision finalizes a March ruling by the Texas Supreme Court to uphold the pro-life law against a lawsuit which had suggested that state officials had a role in enforcing the measure.
The Lone Star State’s hotly contested Heartbeat Act bans abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected (usually around six weeks gestation), and relies on civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecution for its enforcement.
The provision in the legislation which sparked the legal challenge thrown out Tuesday was its enforcement mechanism that empowers private citizens to file lawsuits against abortionists and anyone suspected of aiding or abetting an abortion.
Opponents of the bill have decried the provision as promoting as “vigilantism,” while proponents of the law point out it’s a useful work-around until the federal “right to abortion” established in Roe v. Wade is overturned.
On Tuesday Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott hailed the federal court’s decision to throw out the lawsuit as “[a]nother legal loss” for abortion proponents, and highlighted the fact that the state’s pro-life law “is saving babies every day.”
The Heartbeat Act has been credited with reducing the abortion rate in Texas by 60% in the first month after it was enacted.
Another legal loss for those challenging SB8—the pro-life law that is saving babies every day. https://t.co/dcpiZKuXV2
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) April 26, 2022
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also weighed in on the Tuesday ruling, praising his team “for bringing win after win for the unborn in Texas.”
“The Texas Heartbeat Act is one of the greatest pro-life laws in the nation, and I’m glad to defend it,” Paxton said. “Tens of thousands of babies have been saved in Texas because of SB 8 and our victories in court!”
The major pro-life law has withstood myriad legal challenges since it was signed into law by Gov. Abbott last year.
Pro-life group Texas Right to Life has stated that a total of 22 lawsuits have been filed thus far to try to stop enforcement of the pro-life measure. The Texas Supreme Court has upheld the law three times so far.
The life-saving legislation has inspired many pieces of copycat bills in other Republican-led states, as lawmakers gear up for the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, sending the issue back to individual states.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision in the crucial case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, this June.