WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court is challenging a Texas law that virtually ended abortion in the nation’s second largest state after six weeks of pregnancy.
Judges are hearing arguments Monday in two cases over whether abortion providers or the Justice Department can challenge the law in federal courts, which has an unusual enforcement regime its advocates claim to protect from the review by a federal court.
In neither case is the right to abortion directly at issue, but the motivation for the lawsuits brought by abortion providers and the Department of Justice is that Texas law conflicts with historical decisions of Supreme Court that prevent a state from banning early pregnancy abortion.
Judges will hear a separate challenge to the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in a case involving Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. These arguments are set for December 1.
Texas law has been in effect since September, with the exception of a 48-hour period in early October when it was blocked by a lower court.
The High Court looked into the Texas cases less than two weeks ago, advancing at extraordinary speed, but only after rejecting a plea to block the law by a 5-4 vote in early September.
Five conservative judges, including three appointed by President Donald Trump, were in the majority. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three Liberal justices of the dissenting court.
The court provided no explanation for its decision to hear the cases so quickly.
The Texas ban, enacted by Governor Greg Abbott in May, bans abortion after heart activity is detected in a fetus, usually around six weeks old and before some women know they are pregnant.
The law makes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.
At least 12 other states have enacted early pregnancy bans, but all have been prevented from coming into force.
But rather than requiring state officials to enforce it, Texas law directs private citizens to prosecute anyone who practices or assists and encourages an abortion. If they are successful, they are entitled to at least $ 10,000. Women who have an abortion cannot be prosecuted.
The structure of the law threatens abortion providers with huge financial penalties if they violate it. Clinics statewide have stopped performing abortions once heart activity is detected.
The result, according to providers and the Biden administration, is that women who are financially capable have traveled to other states and those who cannot afford it must either continue their pregnancy against their will or find other potentially dangerous means of ending it.
The State and Jonathan Mitchell, an architect of the law, say in their submissions that claimants and the Department of Justice do not have the right to go to federal court and cannot sue judges and court clerks. State who are not responsible for enforcing the abortion ban. They also argue that there is no effective way to block the law, in part because the federal court cannot force state judges to refrain from hearing prosecutions authorized by law.
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