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Federal judge temporarily blocks Texas abortion ban

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman on Wednesday temporarily blocked Texas' strict abortion ban, saying in his ruling that "this court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right."

Under the law, abortions cannot be performed in Texas after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy. Many women don't know they are pregnant at that point, and the law does not make any exceptions for cases of rape or incest. It is enforced by the public, with regular citizens encouraged to sue people who help women obtain abortions. 

After the Supreme Court declined to block the law last month, the U.S. Justice Department sued Texas, seeking a temporary injunction of the law on constitutional grounds. During a hearing Friday, Justice Department attorney Brian Netter said the law is an "unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice," while a representative of the Texas attorney general said the federal government was engaged in "hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric."

Pitman sided with the DOJ, writing in his ruling that "a person's right under the Constitution to choose to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability is well established. Fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, the state contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that."