The Texas law bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks, even before many women know that they are pregnant

The sweeping Texas abortion ban can stay in place, a federal appeals court ruled, rejecting the latest effort by the U.S. Justice Department to put the brakes on a law that was designed to skirt judicial review. The ban is the biggest curb on abortions in the U.S. in the past half-century.

Thursday’s ruling could send a review of the Texas law to the U.S. Supreme Court, which already allowed the restrictions to take effect without ruling on its constitutionality.

The Texas law bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks, even before many women know that they are pregnant. The law allows ordinary citizens to sue pregnant women, abortion providers, or anyone else who helps a pregnant woman end her pregnancy, in an effort to keep courts from declaring the law unconstitutional.

“We hope the Department of Justice urgently appeals this order to the Supreme Court to restore Texans’ ability to obtain abortion care after six weeks in pregnancy,” Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told the AP.

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