A federal judge on Wednesday scheduled an Oct. 1 hearing to weigh a Biden administration request to freeze a Texas law that prohibits abortions after six weeks from conception and authorizes private citizens to sue people thought to perform or aid in an abortion outside of that window.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman’s order keeps the law in effect and allows Texas to make its case opposing the request from Biden’s Justice Department by Sept. 29. The administration can then respond before Oct. 1.
The Justice Department had sought to immediately block the law, saying it was unconstitutional. A Sept. 14 filing detailed the law’s effects on individual patients, such as forcing them to make lengthy trips out of state to terminate pregnancies.
President Joe Biden has faced intense pressure to respond to Texas’ abortion restrictions — and to early moves in other conservative-led states to craft similar laws. The Texas law has outraged Democrats and abortion rights supporters in the aftermath of the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling refusing an emergency stay against the statute.
The law could still be struck down by courts if abortion rights groups can successfully show that people are being injured by the way the law cuts off access to the procedure. That would require finding people willing to violate the ban and be plaintiffs in a challenge before the most conservative circuit court in the country and the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.