The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday, October 22, that it will review lawsuits filed against Texas’ ‘heartbeat’ law banning abortions after six weeks gestation, which challenge the constitutionality of the particular way the pro-life law is enforced, CBS reported.
In May of this year, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott passed S.B. 8, better known as the ‘heartbeat’ law, which bans all abortions after six weeks gestation, when the baby’s heartbeat can be heard.
The Texas pro-life law has a very particular mechanism that differentiates it from other legislation that seeks to restrict abortion: instead of the state enforcing it, it is the citizens themselves who denounce those clinics, doctors or persons who perform or help perform an abortion after six weeks.
Those who violate the law and are sued must pay at least $10,000 to the people who reported them.
Since its implementation on September 1, the law has been strongly opposed by the pro-abortion sector as well as the Biden administration, which tried to block the law on two occasions.
On October 6, a federal court effectively issued a preliminary injunction vacating the law after receiving a lawsuit from the federal government.
The decision was appealed and just 48 hours later the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the initial ruling on the grounds that during the time the law is challenged in the courts, it should go into effect.
The ruling was appealed and reached the Supreme Court, which, with minimal difference, voted not to block the law during the period of time the legal challenges last and the constitutionality of the law is established.
In response, the Department of Justice again sued the state of Texas for the particular mechanism used to enforce the law, since the law effectively prevents federal courts from intervening in lawsuits.
Because it is individuals who sue abortion clinics or doctors who perform abortions, civil lawsuits are brought in Texas state courts and federal courts are not involved in the proceedings.
That is why both the DOJ and abortion providers want the Supreme Court to decide whether this aspect of the law is constitutional.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded to the DOJ’s lawsuit by saying that ‘neither the federal government nor abortion providers are entitled to demand Texas write its laws to permit them to be challenged in a pre-enforcement action in federal court.’
In other words, how a state regulates itself is none of the federal government’s business.
The Supreme Court hearing was set for November 1.
A month later, on the high court’s docket is another pro-life law this time from the state of Mississippi which aims to ban abortions past 15 weeks.
Both pro-life laws, pro-abortion advocates argue, challenge ‘the constitutional right to abortion’ guaranteed by the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that legalized the procedure throughout the United States.
The Roe v Wade ruling is an interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which protects a person’s right to privacy from state intervention, which would include a woman’s decision to undergo an abortion without government involvement.
With the Texas heartbeat law, precisely because the state does not get involved in a woman’s decision to have an abortion and, therefore, does not violate her right to privacy, it could be the argument with which the Supreme Court upholds the Texas pro-life law without the need to overturn or infringe on the Roe v Wade ruling.