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SCOTUS Refuses to Ban the Texas Abortion Law

Health & Gender Policy Brief # 128 | By: S Bhimji | September 3, 2021

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Photo taken from: Times of Malta

Policy Summary

The topic of abortion has always been a contentious issue in the USA. In a recent Gallup poll that asked participants about the legality of abortion, 46% described themselves are pro-choice and 49% as pro-life. So no matter what decision the state or federal government makes, a significant number of people are going to be disappointed. 

Just a few days ago, the US Supreme Court voted 6-3 and refused to block a Texas law that bans most abortions. And what this has done is essentially shut down the rights of most women seeking an abortion in the Lone Star state. This law will shut down close to 90% of all abortions in the State.

The Texas law was signed in May 2021 by Governor Greg Abbot and prohibited abortions once the fetus is found to have a ‘heart-beat’- which is usually around 6 weeks – a time before most women do not even know they are pregnant. 

The Texas abortion law is the strictest in the country and is part of a wider push by the Republican party. At least a dozen more states have enacted similar abortion bans but they are all facing legal challenges.

Policy Analysis

Texas has always had some of the nation’s strictest abortion laws, which have led to the closure of most abortion clinics in the state. 

Even though at least a dozen other states have enacted similar ‘heart-beat’ abortion bans, they have been blocked by the courts. But the Texas case was somewhat unique- it was intentionally structured to protect government officials from enforcement, thus making future legal challenges more laborious to secure. Instead, the Texas law offers an incentive to all US citizens to file a civil suit against any healthcare provider, clinic, or anyone who assists with the procedure. 

Individual American citizens have been offered cash bounties of at least $10K if they bring a successful civil lawsuit against abortion clinics, doctors, and women seeking an abortion after the 6th week of pregnancy.

Since the Supreme Court decision, the Texas abortion law went into immediate effect and has practically shut down the majority of abortion clinics in the state. Most pregnant women will not be able to access abortion care from now on.  

Planned Parenthood and many abortion healthcare providers have opted to discontinue operating abortion clinics in Texas to avoid unnecessary and expensive civil litigation.

 

Photo taken from: Buzz.ie

Because the law provides incentives to private citizens to file civil suits against abortion clinics and providers, this has caused significant alarm in the medical community, who feel that citizen enforcement would be similar to legal vigilantism. And the fear among the pro-choice supporters and healthcare providers is that other states may also structure their abortion laws to Texas. 

There is no question that the Texas abortion law has created chaos and people who really need access to abortion will be the ones to suffer. 

President Biden was aghast at the Supreme Court decision and reiterated the White House’s support for Pro-Choice groups. Said President Biden, “This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v Wade and upheld as a precedent for nearly half a century.” 

As it stands, the Texas law will most likely affect the most vulnerable demographics in the community: the Latinos and African Americans, who also lack the financial means to seek an abortion out of state. Legal experts are now weighing their options and determining how to challenge the Texas Abortion Law.

Engagement Resources​

Click or tap on image to visit resource website.

Gov. Greg Abbott signs into law one of the nation’s strictest abortion measures, banning procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/05/18/texas-heartbeat-bill-abortions-law/

What The Texas Abortion Ban Does — And What It Means For Other States

https://www.npr.org/2021/09/01/1033202132/texas-abortion-ban-what-happens-next

Supreme Court declines to block Texas abortion law that bans procedure at six weeks

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/09/02/supreme-court-declines-block-texas-six-week-abortion-ban/5662204001/

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