A Texas law banning most abortions is still in effect, after a federal appeals court sided with Texas officials a second time and again suspended a lower court ruling that had blocked the law.
A three judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 late Thursday, refusing a request from the U.S. Department of Justice to allow a lower court ruling blocking enforcement of the Texas law to stand. The law prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
The federal government is expected to appeal Thursday’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which previously allowed the law to go into effect by declining to intervene at the request of Texas abortion providers.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the latest ruling.
More:Texas’ restrictive abortion law temporarily restored by federal appeals court
The Texas law is the most restrictive in the nation and includes a unique enforcement provision that is at the center of the ongoing legal battle.
Senate Bill 8 prohibits government officials from enforcing the ban and instead allows any private individual to sue abortion providers or those who aid or abet abortions in violation of the law. Successful litigants can collect at least $10,000.
The federal government sued the state over the law in September. Weeks later, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee in Austin, blocked the law from going into effect.
More:Federal judge blocks Texas law banning most abortions
In his 113-page decision, Pitman said the Texas law is an “offensive deprivation of such an important right” and creates an “unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme,” allowing the state to skirt traditional avenues of judicial review.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and attorneys on his staff have argued that the state is not responsible for enforcing the law and therefore cannot be the target of a lawsuit over the law.
After Pitman’s ruling, at least one abortion provider in the state resumed offering procedures that would violate the law, despite concerns about future liability. The law states that providers could still be subject to litigation for abortions performed under a temporary court order blocking the law.
Two days after the law was blocked, the 5th Circuit, responding to an appeal filed by the state, issued an emergency order restoring the law. Thursday’s decision is more formal, and will stand while the panel hears oral arguments in the underlying lawsuit.
More:Abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy resume in Texas, after judge blocks new law