High Court Hears Cases on Novel Texas Law, but Outcome May Not Affect Abortion Access

High Court Hears Cases on Novel Texas Law, but Outcome May Not Affect Abortion Access

Demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court on Nov. 1 in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court, whose conservative majority is considered poised to overturn decades-old decisions guaranteeing abortion rights, heard its first two abortion cases of the 2021-22 term Monday. But the court could decide this case without deciding the fate of abortion rights in America. At stake is the future of a Texas law, which severely limits the procedure, that the high court refused to block from taking effect in September. The state law has cut the number of abortions in the state by half. The Texas law — known as SB 8 — is similar to laws passed by several states over the past few years in that it bans abortion after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which typically occurs about six weeks into pregnancy. That is in direct contravention of Supreme Court precedents in 1973’s Roe v. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey , which say states cannot ban abortion until fetal “viability,” which is about 22 to 24 weeks. The law also makes no exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. The Texas law, however, varies from other state “heartbeat” laws because it has a unique enforcement mechanism that gives state officials no role in ensuring that the ban is obeyed. Rather, it leaves enforcement to the general public, by authorizing civil suits against not just anyone who performs an abortion, but anyone who “aids and abets” the performance of […]

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