Court of Appeals to Hear Oral Arguments in Texas Abortion Law Case

Court of Appeals to Hear Oral Arguments Following US Supreme Court Decision on SB 8
Demonstrations gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court. | Image by Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Oral arguments are set to begin on January 7 for the Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, according to a federal appeals court filing on Monday. Based in Louisiana, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled this hearing after the Supreme Court declined to block enforcement of SB 8 while still allowing abortion providers to challenge the law.

“The court has decided that oral argument is appropriate before ruling on the state’s motion to certify or alternate motion to set a briefing schedule, and the response thereto. Consequently, the argument will be held at 9 a.m. in New Orleans on Friday, January 7, 2022,” stated court documents.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Texas officials plan to ask the appeals court to direct the Texas Supreme Court to decide whether state licensing officials can enforce this ban before the case is sent back to the federal district court.

Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson has argued against the case being remanded to the district court. “I respectfully disagree with the majority’s decision to hear oral arguments on this remand from the United States Supreme Court,” he said. “I do not read the Supreme Court’s judgment, especially in a case of this magnitude and acceleration, to countenance such delay.”

Currently, the Texas law prohibits abortion starting at six weeks of pregnancy and has no exception for rape or incest. On December 10, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law would remain in place, but that abortion providers can challenge it by suing.

Abortion rights proponents remain concerned about the bill’s block on what they believe to be a constitutional right. “Abortion rights are really under threat like never before,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO and President of Whole Woman’s Health, a clinic that provides women’s healthcare, including abortions. “Doctors have been forced to deny hundreds of patients the abortion care they need and deserve. Texans have been forced to remain pregnant against their will or to leave the state to get care.”

Those on the other side of the controversial issue have praised the bill. “We celebrate that the Texas Heartbeat Act will remain in effect, saving the lives of unborn children and protecting mothers while litigation continues in lower courts,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony List.

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