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State district judge rules parts of Texas' abortion law are unconstitutional

Judge David Peeples points out three areas of the "Heartbeat Act" that make the enforcement of the law unconstitutional.

AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: On Dec. 10, one day after this ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas abortion providers can sue over the state’s ban on most abortions, but the justices allowed the law to remain in effect.  

A State district judge has ruled that parts of Texas' new abortion law are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

Specifically, Judge David Peeples ruled that how the law, Senate Bill 8, is enforced violates the Texas and U.S. constitutions. SB 8, dubbed the "Heartbeat Act," allows almost anyone anywhere in the world to sue a doctor in Texas who performs an abortion and collect $10,000 if the doctor or provider is successfully sued.

Judge Peeples points out three areas of the law that make the enforcement of the law unconstitutional.

Allowing people to sue without having to show how they were personally harmed violates the Texas constitution's open courts provision, the ruling states.

The law also allows punishment without due process, the district judge said. He ruled that requiring people who are not harmed to be awarded money violates the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution grants everyone the right to due process.

Lastly, the judge said the law delegates executive power to private citizens, which is also unconstitutional.

This ruling does not stop the law from being enforced, the Texas Tribune reported.

After Judge Peeples' ruling, this part of the Texas law could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Department of Justice sued Texas following the enactment of the law, and arguments were made before the Supreme Court. A decision has yet to be made by the justices.

SB 8 has been in effect since Sept. 1. The law is the most intense restriction on abortion access since the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country.

The Texas Heartbeat Act bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is typically at six weeks gestation and before most women know they are pregnant. There is an exception for medical emergencies that put a woman's health at risk, but there are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

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