That didn’t last long. Barely 48 hours after a district judge suspended the Texas law that forbids abortions after cardiac activity is detected, a federal appeals court stepped in and allowed the state to continue with the nation’s most restrictive ban on the practice. In a brief order issued Friday night, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the law that means most abortions after around six weeks are once again banned in Texas, without any exceptions for rape or incest. The three judges said the ban could resume while they consider an appeal by the state. The move had been widely expected and it’s why most of the state’s abortion providers had not started conducting abortions this week. It’s unclear how many abortions were performed in Texas while the ban was briefly paused, but at least six abortion providers had started conducting abortions beyond six weeks.
Texas officials celebrated the order. “Tonight the Fifth Circuit has granted an administrative stay in the #SB8 case,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote on Twitter. “I will continue to fight to keep #Texas free from federal overreach.” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, blasted the move, saying that “patients are being thrown back into a state of chaos and fear.” Northup called on the Supreme Court to “step in and stop this madness.”
Although the order by the circuit court is only temporary, experts said it appeared to be a clear sign that the appeals court would allow the Texas law to stand. After all, it had already done so once before when it allowed the law to take effect in September and now it decided to act in favor of Texas mere hours after the state asked it to intervene. The three-judge panel that issued the Friday night ruling was made up by two judges appointed during Republican administrations. In contrast, the judge that had suspended the law was appointed by President Barack Obama.