The Texas law banning most abortions will remain in effect until at least Oct. 1, when a federal judge will hear arguments from the Department of Justice on why the measure should be blocked.
The law, which bans abortions outside of medical emergencies once a fetal heartbeat is detected, is being challenged by the Biden administration over its alleged violation of the constitutional access to abortion laid out in Supreme Court rulings like Roe v. Wade.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee, issued the order Wednesday setting the date on an emergency motion filed by government lawyers that asks him to lodge a preliminary injunction blocking the law until the case’s outcome is determined.
“This relief is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States in ensuring that its States respect the terms of the national compact. It is also necessary to protect federal agencies, employees, and contractors whose lawful actions S.B. 8 purports to prohibit,” the government’s filing stated.
Texas was ordered to file its response to the motion by the morning of Sept. 29, with the United States filing its reply, if any, before the Oct. 1 hearing.
Pitman granted a request for expedited consideration of the government’s request but the hearing is nearly two weeks later than the date proposed by the government.
The law in question went into effect on Sept. 1. It requires doctors test for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion or terminating a pregnancy, and, if a heartbeat is detected, to only carry out the abortion if a medical emergency exists.
Such an emergency is defined by state law as a serious threat to the pregnant woman’s health or life.
The law also bars state officials from enforcing it. Private citizens can sue doctors or others they allege took part or helped with an illegal abortion.
Republicans in the Texas Legislature passed the law earlier this year. Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed it.
Republicans have a so-called trifecta in Texas, controlling both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion.
Abortion providers sued over the law before it went into effect but courts ruled against them for the time being, including the Supreme Court. That prompted the Biden administration’s suit, which is being backed by 24 Democrat attorneys general.