WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court on Friday passed a Tennessee law banning abortion once the heartbeat of the fetus is detected.
Still, it maintains an almost identical ban in Texas, in large part because of the new way the new law outsources the application, providing a $ 10,000 incentive to anyone in the country to sue anyone who ” help or incite “a post – beat abortion.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit to derail Texas’ abortion rewards law will not immediately alter the landscape of abortion clinics or women who want to end their pregnancies after six weeks.
But the status quo has already changed drastically since Senate Bill 8 went into effect on September 1st.
Abortions fall by at least 90%.
Two dozen Texas clinics perform about 53,000 abortions each year, according to state data. Approximate math suggests that in the first ten days, approximately 1,300 women who would have terminated a pregnancy may have no choice but to carry it out.
Or, as SB 8 proponents see it, 1,300 lives have already been saved.
This figure will increase by about 1,000 a week until the courts rule everything out and there are many legal skirmishes underway.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit, and the preliminary and standing orders and the declaration of unconstitutional SB 8, are in the hands of U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin, appointed by Obama and a former U.S. attorney. .
The lawsuit paints Texas law as a flagrant violation of women’s constitutional rights as it tries to evade judicial review by taking the application out of the hands of government officials.
Advocates for abortion rights see ample legal ammunition in the 27-page submission for Pitman to suspend the application, at the very least. However, he rules, an appeal is almost certain.
This would go to the federal appeals court of the 5th Circuit of New Orleans, which is already struggling with an aspect of SB 8: the issue at the center of Supreme Court resolution 5-4 that allowed the law to go into effect. , rejecting an abortion petition. suppliers for reasons which had not yet proved irreparable damage, because so far no one had sued them under the vigilante’s disposition.
The private civil enforcement mechanism is what makes SB 8 so unusual.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, who announced Thursday the federal effort to repeal the law, warned that if Texas is allowed to withdraw its rights from women by replacing legal guardians, abortion is not the only right in jeopardy.
“The law allows anyone across the country, with no injuries, no connection to abortion (a complete stranger), to file a lawsuit for each abortion and there is no limit on the number of abortion lawsuits,” Helene said. Krasnoff, vice president of litigation and public policy law at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The risk of financial ruin arising from these lawsuits is so great that providers have had no choice but to turn away most women. Prior to September 1, only one in 20 abortions occurred in the first six weeks.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who disagreed with the ruling allowing SB 8 to come into force, called it “a blatantly unconstitutional law designed to ban women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny.”
Enemies of abortion reject complaints because the law creates a Catch-22.
With online providers, “there is no justification for presenting anything right now,” said John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life. “We have no intention of filing frivolous lawsuits.”
Texas Right to Life drove SB 8 and created a website to gather advice on possible defendants.
“The legislative intention is for the bill to be complied with and for abortions to be stopped after a heartbeat is detected. In that sense, it works,” Seago said.
Since abortion was legalized in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court never upheld a law limiting abortion so early during pregnancy.
A 1992 ruling, Planned Parenthood Vs. Casey, protects “the right of women to choose to have an abortion before viability and obtain it without undue state interference.”
A fetus becomes viable after 24 weeks and in May the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments this fall in a Mississippi case involving a 15-week ban on abortion.
With the change in court during Donald Trump’s presidency, this could be the vehicle for high court conservatives to override Roe.
On Friday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals passed the Tennessee Heartbeat Act, reaffirming that according to existing Supreme Court rulings, this cut-off point is too early.
The sentence “rightly respected almost 50 years of precedent,” said Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “With all eyes set on the devastating effect of the Texas abortion ban, this is welcome news for Tennesseans and the rule of law.”
There is a key difference between this law and SB 8. Texas law outsources enforcement. The state is not the entity that interferes with the right to choose an abortion.
An embryonic heartbeat can be detected just six weeks after the last menstrual cycle, or just two weeks after a woman with a predictable cycle has missed a period.
This leaves a faintly narrow window given the mosaic of other Texas restrictions:
- Women should have an ultrasound and receive mandatory status information about fetal development.
- Unless they live more than 100 miles from the nearest provider, they will have to wait at least 24 hours before returning to the procedure.
- Of those 1,300 women with pregnancies too long for a legal abortion once SB 8 went into effect, some may still have options: those with enough money to get out of state.
- Women with lower incomes will not be able to exercise the right still technically in place under Roe.
“Every day that this extreme ban on abortion is maintained is another day that the vast majority of our patients are forced to try to leave the state just to access essential health care,” Planned Parenthood of said on Friday. Greater Texas.
The longer SB 8 is in place, the worse the financial pain for abortion providers. With low incomes, they may have difficulty covering salaries and rent. Advocates fear that some clinics will be forced to close, making access to abortion even more difficult.
This, of course, is no cause for lamentation among the enemies of abortion.
“I would be surprised if this law fails Planned Parenthood, as they claim it’s only 3% of what they do. That doesn’t seem consistent with their messaging,” Seago said.
Last week, Travis County District Court Judge Amy Clark Meachum issued a temporary injunction banning private actions against a private attorney in Dallas or his clients by Texas Right to Life, Seago personally or any “John Doe” with whom the group had communicated.
The judge extended the order to eight others represented by attorney Elizabeth Myers, including a lawyer representing abortion-funding groups, social workers and an abortion provider. A hearing is set for October 4th.
Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas have also obtained temporary protection against possible lawsuits. A hearing on this request for a ban will be held on Monday.
But none of the orders prevent the demand of millions of other people in Texas and other states who want to run.
Myers said he believes temporary protection of the courts has deterred these SB 8 lawsuits “but it’s only a matter of time.”
“I don’t think the threat of organization and surveillance and possible lawsuits will go away,” he said. “Maybe we’ve been able to move forward.”
Austin correspondent Morgan O’Hanlon contributed to this report.