After going into effect last month, the new Texas anti-abortion law, which bans abortions after six weeks and incentivizes citizens to sue other citizens they believe have helped someone obtain an abortion after that point, has essentially halted most abortions in the state after the Supreme Court refused to rule on the constitutionality of the law.
Now, the Department of Justice under President Biden has requested an immediate block from the Supreme Court, per the Associated Press.
Previously, a federal district court judge had halted the law, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals removed the block soon after, according to The New York Times. This new attempt could be decided rather quickly as well — the Times reports that Justice Alito has asked Texas to respond by Thursday to the request, and a potential decision could come within days.
But whether or not the Supreme Court will actually block the law remains to be seen. In September, the measure first came into effect after the high court denied a petition to block it via a 5-4 decision. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s left-wing in opposition to enacting the law, which Justice Sonia Sotomayor called “flagrantly unconstitutional.”
Yet the court’s more conservative members voted in favor of letting the law come into effect, despite these protestations. If the Supreme Court denies the Department of Justice’s new request, the law will stay in effect — but the overall constitutionality of the law will not have been decided.
In addition to asking for an immediate block, the Biden administration has suggested that the Supreme Court offer a final ruling on the law in the coming year, according to the Associated Press. The court will also preside over an abortion case based on a Mississippi law this term, the publication notes, which would ban abortions at 15 weeks.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed President Biden’s commitment to protecting abortion rights at a briefing yesterday. The new Texas law, despite banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy — before most people even know that they’re pregnant — doesn’t actually put enforcement in the hands of the state government. Instead, it allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a person get an abortion.
For almost 50 years since Roe v Wade was decided in 1973, the right to an abortion — a safe and legal medical procedure — has been guaranteed in the United States. Abortion-rights advocates have said that the new Texas law functionally ends the protections provided by Roe v Wade, denying healthcare access to millions of people.
Update: On Friday, October 22nd, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in regards to the Texas abortion law but agreed to fast-track, and hear, two challenges to the law. They will be heard by the Supreme Court on November 1st.
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