Texas now has a law banning abortions within six weeks, which effectively ends Roe v. Wade protections.
The U.S. Supreme Court did not act on an urgent request to block the law’s implementation by Tuesday midnight, surprising some high court watchers. It allowed the policy to go ahead despite court challenges.
After the Supreme Court failed on a request to block it on Wednesday, a Texas law banning most abortions within six weeks of pregnancy became effective. It was the most restrictive abortion law in America and caused clinics to refuse women who wanted to undergo the procedure.
Although the justices could still rule on the request, this is a first step in what is likely to be a long legal battle over the law. In the meantime, Texas’ access to abortion has been severely restricted. This is the latest example where a Republican-led government has imposed new restrictions on ending pregnancies.
Senate Bill 8 is a law that bans abortion in Texas. It will fuel political and legal battles over Roe v. Wade’s future. This 1973 decision established a constitutional right for abortion. There are no exceptions to the law for pregnancies that result from incest and rape.
In an emergency application urging the justices to intervene, abortion providers in the state wrote that the law “would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas, barring care for at least 85 percent of Texas abortion patients (those who are six weeks pregnant or greater) and likely forcing many abortion clinics ultimately to close.”
Supreme Court precedents prohibit states from banning abortions before fetal viability. This is the point at which fetuses are capable of living outside of the womb. It is approximately 22-24 weeks.
The Texas law was written to be difficult to challenge in court. A lawsuit to stop a law from being enforced because it is invalid would usually name state officials as defendants. The Texas law, however, prohibits state officials from enforcing the law and allows private individuals to sue any person who “aids and abets” the procedure.
Although the patient cannot be sued, doctors, counselors, and staff at clinics can all be named as potential defendants. Plaintiffs are not required to have any connection to the case or to show that they suffered any injuries. They can win $10,000 and legal fees. Prevailing defendants do not have the right to legal fees.
For the justices, the immediate question is not whether Texas’ law is constitutional. It’s, however, about whether the law can be challenged in federal courts. Defenders of the law claim that because the law is so structured, only Texas courts can decide on it. This applies only to suits against abortion providers who have violated the law.
Amy Hagstrom Miller is the chief executive officer of Whole Woman’s Health. The clinics are located in Texas and offer abortions to patients whose ultrasound shows a fetal heartbeat.
She stated that the risk of being sued under the law individually was concerning for her staff, which included doctors and administrators. She did not want them to be exposed to this risk.
She said that doctors and staff would be forced to defend themselves against allegations of breaking the law. “It’s sobering. It’s way more than anything we could have imagined.”
Marva Sadler (senior director of clinic services) said that the last patient appointment at Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth was completed on Tuesday at 11:56 pm. She stated that doctors began treating patients Tuesday morning at 117, which is a significant increase from the usual.
“It was absolute chaos,” stated Ms. Sadler who had traveled from San Antonio to assist. “Patients waited up to five or six hours for their procedures.”
She stated that patients were waiting in cars and in the waiting area. Some were asked to return later. Outside the clinic, anti-abortion protesters gathered. Someone called the fire department at one point. Ms. Sadler claimed that it was a protester and firefighters came to inquire about the clinic’s capabilities.
Ms. Sadler stated that she was proud of Tuesday’s work at the clinic. She said Wednesday was a new day for the clinic. She estimated that 20 percent of the 79 patients on the list would be able to complete their procedures. She said that many women would not be able to receive treatment under the new law because they are too far along in their pregnancies.
She said, “People are confused.” They don’t know where they should go. They don’t even know what the law is.”
The law was passed by Democrats who criticized it and promised to continue fighting for abortion rights throughout Texas and the nation.
Biden stated that the Texas law “blatantly breaches” the constitutional right of abortion as established in Roe v. Wade.
He stated that the Texas law would significantly limit women’s access and use of health care, especially for those from low-income communities and communities of color. It also allows private citizens to sue anyone they believe has helped someone get an abortion. This could include family members, doctors, nurses, front desk staff, and even strangers who have no connection to the person.
Anti-abortion activists stated that they are cautiously optimistic that Supreme Court will allow the law to stand. We’re waiting for word from Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. who oversees the federal appeals court in question. (Justice Alito is able to act independently, but would usually refer the provider’s application to block the law to the full court.
John Seago (legislative director of Texas Right to Life), the largest anti-abortion group in Texas, said that “we’re not fully celebrating until they officially hear from Alito.” “The motion is still pending. He must do something about it. He cannot ignore it.
He said, “But in the interim, it seems like the industry will comply and that’s definitely a victory for us.”
In its next term, which starts in October, the Supreme Court is already set to decide whether Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, should be overruled in a case from Mississippi concerning a state law banning abortions after 15 weeks.
The Texas case was decided quickly as part of the court’s “shadow docket”, without any oral or written arguments and without a full briefing.
The Texas and Mississippi laws are among many measures enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures intended to test the durability of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe’s core holding and said states may not impose an “undue burden” on the right to abortion before fetal viability.
The state-based measures’ advocates are hoping that the Supreme Court’s recent shift towards the right will allow it to support the new laws. Trump-appointed three judges to the court, having previously pledged to name justices who would overrule Roe V. Wade.
Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh was the one who replaced Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Justice Kennedy is a conservative supporter of abortion rights. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, another Justice, replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg believed that abortion was essential for women’s autonomy as well as equality.
Senate Bill 8 was signed into law in May by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican. If a fetal heartbeat has been detected, doctors are prohibited from performing an abortion.
This activity begins at six weeks before most women even realize they are pregnant.
Kamyon Conner, executive director of Texas Equal Access Fund which provides financial support to people seeking abortions, stated that “this law essentially prohibits abortions and codifies intimidation.” Extremists are being empowered by anti-abortion politicians to use lawsuits against anyone who assists someone in getting an abortion.
Abortion providers in Texas filed suit in federal court in July, naming, among others, every state trial court judge and county court clerk in Texas.
Respondents stated that they were not proper parties, and therefore were immune from being sued. “Applicants do not have the standing to sue a state judge or court clerk because a private party might file a lawsuit in his court,” Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, a Republican, wrote in a brief filed Tuesday.
Paxton claimed that abortion providers can only challenge the constitution of the law by violating it and being sued in state courts.
He wrote that “Contrary to the applicants’ hyperbolic statements”, he said, “They haven’t shown that they will personally be harmed by any bill that may not be enforced against their by anyone.”
A federal judge dismissed a motion to dismiss and set a hearing to determine whether the law should be blocked. The hearing was canceled by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.
They argued that they had at least the right to a decision about whether the law should be enjoined. They wrote that if the Supreme Court doesn’t act, then “applicants” and “thousands of other Texans” will be stripped from their fundamental constitutional rights on Wednesday. However, they did not receive a decision on their fully-briefed request for a preliminary order.