Biden team asks Supreme Court to suspend Texas abortion law

The Supreme Court is seen in Washington on Monday, October 18, 2021. The Biden administration asks the High Court to block Texas law banning most abortions, while the fight over the constitutionality of the measure is played out in the courts . The law has been in force since September. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration is asking the Supreme Court to block Texas law banning most abortions, while the fight over the measure’s constitutionality is played out in court.

The administration has also taken the unusual step of telling judges they can grant a full review of Texas law and decide its fate in this term, which already includes a major case on the future of abortion rights for women. United States.

No court has yet made a decision on the constitutionality of Texas law, and the Supreme Court rarely upholds such claims.

The law has been in place since September, with the exception of a district court-ordered break that lasted only 48 hours, and prohibits abortions once heart activity is detected, usually around six weeks and before some women know they are pregnant.

The Justice Department on Monday asked the High Court to lift an order from a conservative federal appeals court that allowed Texas to continue to enforce the country’s toughest abortion restrictions with a new law that was written to make it difficult to challenge in the federal court system. . The ministry announced its intentions last Friday.

Texas law defies leading Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights “by banning abortion long before it is viable – in fact, before many women even realize they are pregnant,” he said. writes the Department of Justice in its plea in court.

“The question now is whether the Texas reversal of this Court’s precedents should be allowed to continue while the courts consider the United States’ lawsuit. As the district court recognized, it shouldn’t, ”the Justice Department wrote.

The administration also said the court could bypass the usual process and rule on the constitutionality of the law that term, although lower courts have yet to do so. Judges have only done so a handful of times in the past decades, the last time being a dispute in 2019 over the Trump administration’s ultimately failed effort to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census. In this case, the deadline to finalize the census was fast approaching.

In this case, the administration said, Texas’ attempt to evade federal court review of its law and the possibility that other states could adopt similar measures justify the court’s early involvement.

The High Court ordered Texas to respond by noon Thursday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told Monday’s press conference that President Joe Biden will protect abortion rights and that the Justice Department will lead efforts to ensure that women have “access to the fundamental rights they have to protect their own health”.

It is not clear whether the administration will prevail in a conservative-majority Supreme Court that has been bolstered by three people appointed by former President Donald Trump and has already agreed to hear a major rights challenge. abortion in a Mississippi case.

The Trump appointees, joined by two other conservatives, have already rejected a plea to keep the law on hold once, in a separate lawsuit filed by abortion providers. There was no immediate timeline for the Supreme Court’s action on this latest motion.

While courts have blocked other state laws effectively prohibiting abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks or so, Texas law has so far avoided a similar fate. due to its unique structure which leaves the application to the citizens rather than the state. officials. Anyone who successfully sues an abortion provider for breaking the law has the right to claim at least $ 10,000 in damages.

In the 5-4 vote last month to allow the law to remain in force, the High Court acknowledged in an unsigned order that there were “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of Texas law” but also “complex and novel” procedural issues over who to prosecute and whether federal courts had the power to prevent the law from being enforced.

In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that he would have suspended the “unprecedented” law so that the court could determine “whether a state can shirk responsibility for its laws” by transferring enforcement. The three liberal judges of the tribunal were also dissenting.

The question now is whether the administration’s presence in the retrial will make a difference. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals gave its response Thursday evening, extending its earlier order that allows the law to remain in effect. In a 2-1 vote, the court said it sided with Texas for the same reasons the Supreme Court and another 5th Circuit panel cited in the supplier lawsuit – wondering if anyone could go to federal court to challenge the law.

Texas sought help from the appeals court after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled that the Department of Justice had the power to prosecute and that it had the power to prevent the law enforcement, writing that “women have been unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in a way that is constitutionally protected.”

The judge conceded, however, that “other courts may find a way to avoid this conclusion.”

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