US justice restores restrictive abortion law in Texas

The Biden administration and abortion rights activists had only two days of respite. A federal appeals court on Friday, October 8, authorized Texas to reinstate the controversial law prohibiting the majority of voluntary terminations of pregnancy in this US state.

This very restrictive law, which entered into force on 1is September, prohibits abortion once the embryo’s heartbeat is detected, around six weeks pregnant, when most women do not know they are pregnant. It does not provide for an exception when the pregnancy results from rape or incest. It was temporarily blocked Wednesday by a federal judge in Texas, following a complaint from the Biden government which has until Tuesday to act.

The attorney general of Texas, the Republican Ken Paxton, had appealed to the federal court of New Orleans, – considered one of the most conservative in the country -, which proved him right. “Big news tonight”, Mr. Paxton tweeted as soon as the appeal decision is made public. “I will fight the excesses of the federal government at every turn”, he added.

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In all likelihood, the US federal government will challenge the appellate court’s decision to the US Supreme Court. The latter guaranteed in 1973, in its emblematic judgment Roe V. Wade, the right of women to have an abortion, and then specified that it applied as long as the fetus is not viable, ie around 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“Stop this madness”

Demonstrations for the right to abortion during the

In recent years, laws comparable to that of Texas have been passed by a dozen other conservative states and struck down in court for violating this jurisprudence. But in September, for the first time in nearly half a century, the Supreme Court refused to block the entry into force of Texas law.

The high court justified its inaction by “New questions of procedure”, the law of Texas comprising a single device: it entrusts “Exclusively” it is up to citizens to ensure that the measure is respected by encouraging them to file a complaint against organizations or people who help women to have illegal abortions.

The Supreme Court’s position in this case was seen as a “turn to the right” of the high court, which has six out of nine conservative judges, including three appointed by Donald Trump. On October 2, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of America to defend the right to abortion.

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The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents several Texas abortion clinics, urged the Supreme Court to “Intervene and stop this madness”. “The patients are plunged back into a state of chaos and fear”, said Nancy Northup, president of the organization.

Texas had about two dozen clinics performing voluntary termination of pregnancy before the law came into effect. Not all of them resumed their services within the forty-eight hours during which the text was blocked, for fear of a rapid turnaround of justice.

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Le Monde with AFP, AP and Reuters