One of the Biggest Threats to Roe v. Wade Is on Track

Texas court declines to stop restrictive new law from taking effect this week
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2021 8:55 AM CDT
One of the Biggest Threats to Roe v. Wade Is on Track
Anti-abortion demonstrators gather in the rotunda of the Texas state Capitol while the Senate debated anti-abortion bills in Austin in March.   (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

What is thought to be the most restrictive abortion law in the nation is on track to take effect this week in Texas after a federal court opted not to step in. On Sunday, the 5th US Court of Appeals denied an emergency motion filed by supporters of abortion rights, reports the Texas Tribune. That means a law called SB 8 that prohibits abortions in Texas once a fetal heartbeat is detected can take effect on Wednesday, per the Hill. While the law doesn't explicitly set a time frame, heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks, which opponents say is before many women even know they're pregnant. The law also has a novel and controversial aspect—it allows private citizens to sue doctors or clinics or anyone else they think violates the law for $10,000 per abortion. Critics say it amounts to a "bounty," per the Guardian.

More than 20 abortion providers filed an emergency motion to stop the law Saturday night, but were rejected the next day. “If this law is not blocked by September 1, abortion access in Texas will come to an abrupt stop,” says Marc Hearron, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. The group Whole Women's Health has estimated that 90% of the abortions it performs come after the six-week mark. In talking to NPR about the law, University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck says it has "dire" implications for Roe v. Wade. A Mississippi case before the Supreme Court next term would give justices the ability to "chip away" at Roe while leaving the right to obtain an abortion before 15 weeks largely intact. Not so with this Texas law. "There's no universe in which SB 8 survives and Roe does as well," says Vladeck. (More abortion stories.)

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