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The near-total abortion ban had been in effect for over a month, depriving millions of Texans of the constitutional right to abortion.

NEW ORLEANS, LA — This evening, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit took extraordinary action and lifted the preliminary injunction (PI) granted by a federal district court just hours after Texas asked the Fifth Circuit to do so. Due to this latest action by the Fifth Circuit, federal constitutional protections for abortion are once again meaningless for Texans, forcing patients to travel out-of-state for essential health care, as thousands have been required to do in the month since the ban took effect on September 1. As a direct result, appointments for patients seeking abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy that were scheduled at some health centers after the preliminary injunction will now be canceled. This stay will be in effect until at least 5 pm CT on Tuesday, when the court has asked the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to respond.

This is a major loss for Texas patients and abortion providers, who have navigated the law’s devastating effects on abortion access for over a month now. In putting S.B.8 back in effect, the Fifth Circuit has again disregarded half a century of precedent upholding the constitutional right to abortion. 

On Wednesday, October 6, a federal district court in Austin granted the DOJ’s request to block the law. The State of Texas immediately appealed to the Fifth Circuit and today asked that court to stay the district court’s order which it did only hours later, putting S.B. 8 back in effect — and continuing to deprive Texans of constitutionally protected health care.

Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“Let’s be clear what is happening: the Fifth Circuit has failed Texans seeking abortion over and over again, and as a result, the right to abortion is, once again, effectively meaningless in Texas. The Fifth Circuit’s callous disregard for nearly fifty years of precedent is not only a direct assault on the U.S. Constitution but on Texans seeking abortion. S.B. 8 has resulted in thousands of Texans losing access to abortion and to crucial support networks for fear of entangling friends, family, and providers in costly lawsuits. Now they are facing a situation where appointments were able to be scheduled one day, but now have to be cancelled the next. Planned Parenthood will continue fighting for our patients until this harmful law is fully stopped.”

Before the preliminary injunction, S.B. 8 had been in effect for 36 days, after the law took effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to intervene. In that time, patients have traveled as far as California and New York for care. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma have seen at least twice as many Texas patients as they did in the same time period last year. Traveling out-of-state for an abortion is financially, logistically, and emotionally costly, and for many abortion patients — especially those who are Black or Latino, living in rural areas, or have low incomes — the service is out of reach.  

Under the PI secured by the DOJ, no lawsuits under S.B. 8 could be filed, accepted, or ruled on by state court clerks or judges. The PI was necessary because other challenges to S.B. 8 have stalled in the courts, and at least for now, now it is gone. Planned Parenthood and its litigating partners have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider intervention in the federal case brought by abortion providers, funds, and supporters, which won’t be heard by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals until December at the earliest — and the Supreme Court has not acted on a request to expedite a decision on the petition. Additionally, Planned Parenthood’s state-level challenge has been indefinitely stayed, after the Texas Supreme Court refused to intervene and allow the lawsuit to proceed.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.