Texas Senate Bill 8 was passed on May 19, and went into effect on September 1. This law stipulates that abortions cannot be provided once cardiac activity can be detected, something that occurs within about 6 weeks of conception. Additionally, the law calls on citizens to enforce this measure, entitling individuals to lawsuits against abortion providers for at least $10,000 in damages. Now the Biden Administration is calling on the Department of Justice to challenge the law in the Supreme Court (https://apnews.com/article/us-supreme-court-health-texas-aeedf9630e395f9115909ce5fb63eea5).
While Attorney General Merrick Garland has said that the law is clearly constitutional, lower courts have rejected the case. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman denied dismissal of the case by the state, however the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the lawsuit to be halted. On September 9, the DOJ sued the state of Texas and less than a month later Judge Pitman issued an order suspending the law. The 5th Circuit reinstated the law on October 8.
In response, out of state clinics have started gaining more and more Texas clients. President of Planned Parenthood - South Texas, Jeffrey Hons said, “People are scared, confused, and other than very early abortion, have nowhere to turn to access safe, legal abortion unless they are able to travel hundreds of miles to another state.”
While the Biden Administration and DOJ hope to get a final ruling in the Supreme Court, they have already been denied an emergency appeal in a 5-4 decision back on September 1. That being said, the Court argued that they were more concerned about the enforcement mechanism and the fact that no one had sued an abortion provider at that point. They declined to comment on the law’s constitutionality.
Conservatives are hoping that this case will overturn the landmark cases, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That being said, the case will not go to arguments for some time, especially considering another abortion law in Mississippi is already being challenged in December. Conservatives may have a 6-3 advantage, but the wording of these laws may determine how the Court rules.
Image Credit: Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle via AP, File