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Health

Texas Abortion Providers Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Block Six-Week Abortion Ban

A woman holds a banner that reads "Let Women Choose" during an abortion rights rally.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
/
KUT
A woman holds a banner that reads "Let Women Choose" during an abortion rights rally on the south steps of the Texas Capitol in 2013.

Texas abortion providers are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to issue an emergency stop to a law that would ban abortions in the state as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Similar bans, sometimes referred to as “heartbeat laws,” have been blocked from going into effect in about a dozen states across the country. Abortion advocates say the law would act as a de facto ban on the procedure because many women do not even realize they are pregnant until after the first six weeks of their pregnancy.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, the Lawyering Project, the ACLU, the ACLU of Texas and Morrison & Foerster LLP filed the emergency request with the court on Monday. The law, Senate Bill 8, is slated to go into effect on Wednesday.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, the president, CEO and founder of Whole Woman's Health, said there is “no question that the six-week ban on abortion is unconstitutional.” She said the law should not be allowed to go into effect.

“We are asking the Supreme Court to step in and bring relief to the people of Texas," Hagstrom Miller told KUT.

Unlike similar bans around the U.S., Texas’ law was not written to be enforced by the state. Instead, the law would allow private citizens — even people not in Texas — to sue people who they believe violated the ban. As a result, the Texas law has been harder to block.

John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life, said the law was written to make sure courts could not step in preemptively. He said the goal is to block “the typical path that the abortion industry has been able to get away with,” which is getting a court to block a law before it goes into effect.

“The design was to make sure the law was actually enforced,” Seago said. “That’s part of the motivation.”

Seago said he is “not surprised” abortion providers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in. He said he is hopeful the court will rule the lawsuit itself is “invalid.”

The law also bans people from “aiding and abetting” someone who seeks to get an abortion later than six weeks into a pregnancy, which abortion rights groups say could put people who provide emotional or financial support to women obtaining an abortion at risk of getting sued.

Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement Monday that Texas’ law is “cruel, unconscionable, and unlawful.”

"In less than two days, Texas politicians will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade. We have filed an emergency motion in the Supreme Court to block this law before clinics are forced to turn patients away,” she said. “Patients will have to travel out of state — in the middle of a pandemic — to receive constitutionally guaranteed healthcare.”

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