Federal appellate court punts Texas abortion law to state Supreme Court, prolonging strict restrictions

Pro-choice demonstrators in Texas
(Image credit: Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

A divided panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas on Monday and sent a challenge to the state's privately enforced restrictive abortion law to the Texas Supreme Court, where it is expected to linger as the law stays in effect. "This decision now keeps the case in limbo — and abortion after 6 weeks in the nation's second-largest state — a dead-letter, indefinitely," University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck wrote on Twitter.

The Texas abortion clinics challenging the law had requested that their case be sent to a federal district judge in Austin who has previously blocked the law, until the conservative 5th Circuit appellate court reversed the decision less than 48 hours later. The appellate panel decided in a 2-1 decision that before the federal judge gets the case again, the Texas Supreme Court needs to determine whether state law allows the clinics to sue state licensing officials, as the U.S. Supreme Court allowed.

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