Texas has passed one of the strictest abortion laws in U.S. history. It was not blocked by the Supreme Court which has six conservative to three liberal justices who voted five to four in favor of not blocking the law – the three Democrats dissented and one Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined the dissent.
Some observers immediately noted that this law is a first step for overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling by the Supreme Court which gave women the constitutional right to have an abortion. By Thursday afternoon, Republicans in Florida and South Dakota had already vowed to pass an abortion ban with language modeled on this law. This all comes not long after a case from Mississippi concerning a state law banning most abortions after 15 weeks that (so far) has been blocked by the courts.
In its next term, which starts in October, the Supreme Court is set to decide whether Roe v. Wade should be overruled in this case.
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Everything that is happening on these issues may be laying the groundwork for overturning Roe v. Wade at a state level.
President Biden voiced his opinion on the matter. On Thursday, he blasted the Supreme Court justices who rejected an effort by abortion-rights advocates to stop Texas’ restrictive abortion law from taking effect. He also directed White House legal and policy officials to respond to the court’s decision by looking into ways for federal agencies to “ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by [Roe v. Wade].″
Texas SB8 will impair women's access to health care and, outrageously, deputizes private citizens to sue those they believe helped another person get a banned abortion.
It's a blatant violation of the right established under Roe V. Wade. We will protect and defend that right.
— President Biden (@POTUS) September 1, 2021
The overnight ruling by five of the high court’s conservatives, including all three of former President Donald Trump’s appointees, “is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost fifty years,” Biden said in a searing statement.
It is also worth noting how the Supreme Court arrived at this overnight ruling – indeed, literally overnight and without publication of either the reasons for the decision or the dissenting opinions. This accelerated procedure has recently been the object of several articles in the New York Times, Bloomberg and other media, defining it as a “shadow docket”. Several law professors at prestigious universities, including Harvard and Columbia, lament the procedure, pointing out that it was born as a way to thin out the pile of cases, dealing with unimportant issues that affected few people. But recently, the shadow docket has grown and now, as in the case of the Texas ban, it deals with important issues potentially affecting large swaths of the American population.
The new Texas law known as Senate Bill 8 doesn’t allow women to receive abortions after six weeks. This is extraordinarily stringent and tantamount to a ban on abortion. Six weeks is around the time a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus. Even though women can find out they are pregnant within two to three weeks after sex, and sometimes even as early as one week, most do not find out until after about six weeks, and in Texas, 85 to 90 percent of procedures in the state happen after the sixth week of pregnancy.
The law also has another “vigilante” feature that is worrying many: It allows any Texas citizen to sue anyone who provides or aids in an abortion. This is not just applying to people who work at the clinics, but anyone including the taxi driver who unknowingly might have driven someone to a clinic to receive an abortion. Private companies are responding.
Lyft and Uber said Friday they would cover legal fees for drivers on their respective platforms who are sued under Texas’ restrictive abortion law that went into effect this week. Website hosting service GoDaddy on Friday said it will terminate services for the owner of an anti-abortion website that allows people to report suspected abortions in response to a new Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion.
Going beyond the ban on abortion and taking together all the other concerning aspects of the Supreme Court giving a green light to the Texas law – the fact that the Court chose to issue it from the “shadow docket”; that it allows for the “vigilante” feature of the Texas law; that it opens the door for other states to follow the Texas model – suggests that America is about to face deep changes in the way its democracy is run. It could well be the first step to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and it could be much more than that.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: a court gavel. Featured Photo Credit: Eskay Lim