On Monday, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to block SB8, a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks. The administration claims the measure is unconstitutional, and that it was purposefully designed to evade judicial review.
The law was allowed to be put into effect on September 1, after the Supreme Court refused to block it in a 5-4 decision. A federal judge blocked the law on October 6, responding to the Justice Department’s bid to stop the law, and on October 8 a federal appeals court placed a temporary hold on that order to block.
Though many states have passed six-week abortion bans, this is the first time such a law has been enacted, as most usually are blocked. This six-week mark of pregnancy is before most people know they are pregnant, and bans over 85% of abortions.
The Justice Department wrote in their filing that “Texas’s insistence that no party can bring a suit challenging SB8 amounts to an assertion that the federal courts are powerless to halt the state’s ongoing nullification of federal law. The proposition is as breathtaking as it is dangerous.”
The law is especially egregious as it is designed to avoid judicial scrutiny. It has a “vigilante justice” component, deputizing private citizens to enforce the law by encouraging them to sue anyone who provides abortion care or helps someone access abortion care after six weeks. These citizens can be awarded $10,000 for bringing successful lawsuits.
The Supreme Court is set to consider another major abortion case on December 1st, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, over a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the only clinic left in Mississippi, which can largely be attributed to years of harassment and violence against abortion providers in the state.
Sources: Reuters 10/18/21; NBC News 10/15/21; Feminist Newswire 10/11/21