Saturday, December 4, 2021

EXPLAINER: Texas abortion law again on path to high court

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Justice Department said Friday that the federal government will ask the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s decision on a restrictive Texas law that has banned most abortions since September. A federal appeals court said Thursday that the Texas law must remain in force while the Justice Department challenging the law moves through the courts. This is just the latest court action on the law, which is now headed to the Supreme Court for the second time.

Here are some questions and answers about the law and the way to the courts.

How exactly did Texas law get to this point?

Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed a law in May that bans abortion in Texas before many women knew they were pregnant. Once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks, the law prohibits abortion. The law differs from similar efforts to prohibit abortion in other states, except for enforcement to private citizens, who can sue doctors or anyone who helps a woman perform an abortion.

The law was challenged by abortion rights advocates before taking effect in September, but its unique enforcement mechanism frustrated those efforts at the time. Law made a previous visit to the High Court, which refused to intervene. After the law went into effect, the Biden administration filed a separate lawsuit challenging the law. This is the case that is now on track for the High Court.

What happened first when the law went to the Supreme Court?

The court allowed the law to take effect, voting 5-4 to deny emergency appeals from abortion providers and others. The judges in the majority said that “serious questions” had been raised about the law. But he cited a number of issues, including the law’s novel enforcement mechanism and the fact that no one had actually tried to sue a woman under the law to help her get an abortion, as she refused to intervene. Had done it. The majority insisted that it was not drawing any conclusions about the constitutionality of the law.

Liberal Justice and Chief Justice John Roberts disagreed. Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the decision of her conservative colleagues “astonishing”. Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the law was “unconstitutionally unconstitutional”, and Justice Stephen Breuer held that “a woman has a federal constitutional right to obtain an abortion during an earlier stage of pregnancy”.

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What happened recently in the Court of Appeal?

This time, with the Biden administration suing, a federal judge in Texas blocked the law. Judge Robert Pittman asked Texas to act in an 113-page opinion, saying Republican lawmakers “created an unprecedented and transparent statutory plan” by trying to bypass the courts.

“Ever since SB 8 took effect, women have been barred from taking control of their lives in ways protected by the Constitution,” wrote Pittman, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama.

The Pittman decision allowed abortion to resume in Texas before the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted it. A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 on Thursday to seek a more permanent hold, while the Biden administration’s trial continues. For the time being, Texas law is in effect.

now what?

The Justice Department said on Friday it wanted to appeal to the Supreme Court. There is no timetable for the Supreme Court action, but it will take days or so for both parties to file a brief with the court, and then additional time for the court to act.

The court will not be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the law at this point, just whether Texas should be allowed to enforce its law while the Biden administration’s challenge continues.

The Supreme Court already has a major abortion case slated for December that could reshape abortion rights in America. What happens in that case could affect what ultimately happens in Texas.

How is it possible that Texas has such a restrictive law?

Two prominent examples from the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, prohibit states from banning abortions prior to viability, at which point the fetus can survive outside the womb. This happens around week 24 of pregnancy. But the unique enforcement mechanism of Texas law makes it difficult to challenge.

What effect has the law had in Texas?

Since the law took effect in early September, providers say that 80% or more of abortions previously provided in the state are now banned. Texas women have sought abortion clinics in neighboring states, some hours driving past midnight and including patients under the age of 12. The law makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Nation World News Desk
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