Abortion is now illegal in Texas before many know they are pregnant


The Supreme Court chose not to block a Texas law that is in violation of Roe v. Wade.

Abortion in Texas is now illegal before many people even know they are pregnant after the Supreme Court refused to respond to a request to halt enforcement of a law that bans abortion after roughly six weeks of gestation as it faces legal challenges.

Abortion providers and advocacy groups had filed an emergency application to block enforcement of the law, S.B. 8, saying that without action, the law "would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas, barring care for at least 85% of Texas abortion patients (those who are six weeks pregnant or greater) and likely forcing many abortion clinics ultimately to close."

"Approximately 85% to 90% of people who obtain abortion in Texas are at least six weeks into pregnancy, meaning this law would prohibit nearly all abortions in the state," Planned Parenthood, one of the applicants, wrote in a statement.

The law not only bans abortion before many know they are pregnant, by tying it to the unscientific concept of a "fetal heartbeat," it also creates a sort of vigilante justice system in which average citizens can sue anyone they believe is "aiding and abetting" abortion procedures, including doctors, nurses, other staff at abortion clinics, or even someone who drives a patient to an abortion clinic.

The Texas law as written violates Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that granted the right to an abortion up until fetal viability, which medical experts put at roughly 24 weeks gestation. Reproductive rights experts wrote on Twitter that the decision by the Supreme Court to ignore the emergency application signals a grave threat to the constitutional right to abortion as we've known it since Roe was decided.

"If SCOTUS was interested in upholding abortion rights precedent, it would have issued an order that says basically 'sorry Texas, Roe says you can't ban abortion at 6 weeks. Nice try.' SCOTUS didn’t issue that order," legal expert Jessica Mason Pieklo wrote. "And by not issuing that order, SCOTUS signaled that the 6-3 conservative majority has no interest in upholding Roe as precedent."

The Supreme Court was already scheduled to determine the fate of Roe in its next term, when it will hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks gestation.

It's possible that the Supreme Court could still decide to block Texas' law from enforcement. However, the law went into effect early Wednesday morning, and without action, the court has allowed one of the most severe abortion bans ever written to take effect.

"By refusing to take action before the clock struck midnight, the far-right Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade," Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) tweeted. "This isn't hypothetical - our fundamental rights are being snatched away from under us."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.