Texas abortion providers ask U.S. Supreme Court to block state fetal heartbeat law

Texas Politics

FILE – In this Nov. 30, 2005 file photo, an anti-abortion supporter stands next to a pro-choice demonstrator outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 61% of Americans say abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances in the first trimester of a pregnancy. However, 65% said abortion should usually be illegal in the second trimester, and 80% said that about the third trimester. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

AUSTIN (Texas Tribune/KXAN) — A Texas law that would ban abortions after as early as six weeks is poised to take effect Wednesday may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Monday, a request from a group of state abortion providers was filed to Justice Samuel Alito: requesting the court block the Senate Bill 8. The Hill reports the group wrote in its filing: “Nearly fifty years ago, this Court held that Texas could not ban abortion prior to viability. Yet, absent intervention from this Court, in less than two days, on Wednesday, September 1, Texas will do precisely that.”

Senate Bill 8 would prohibit abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected without specifying a time frame, before many women know they are pregnant.

On Friday night, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals canceled a hearing planned for Monday, at which more than 20 abortion providers had hoped to persuade a federal district court in Austin to block the law from taking effect.

Providers have sued to overturn the law, which they say is the nation’s strictest and would create what they call a “bounty hunting scheme” in allowing members of the general public to sue those who might have violated the law.

Late on Saturday, provider groups, including Planned Parenthood Center for Choice and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, filed emergency motions with the 5th Circuit, essentially asking it to send the case back to district court or for the appellate court itself to issue a stay that would temporarily block the law’s enforcement.

The 5th Circuit, considered one of the most politically conservative in the nation, denied the emergency motions Sunday afternoon.

“If this law is not blocked by September 1, abortion access in Texas will come to an abrupt stop,” Marc Hearron, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents providers, said in a statement. The state’s strategy, he said, has been to “circumvent the court system and the constitution itself,” he said, in order to “push abortion out of reach for as many Texans as possible.”

Kim Schwartz, director of media and communication for Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion organization, said the group was “really excited” about the increased likelihood that the bill will go into effect Wednesday.

Even if clinics stay open, the law could affect most of the abortions now being performed in Texas. Whole Woman’s Health, which also provides gynecological care for women, said in a press release that 90% of the abortions they perform are after the six-week mark.

“To be clear: our health centers remain open, and Planned Parenthood providers will see as many patients as they can, as long as they can within the law. But without the courts stepping in, on Wednesday, Texans will be denied their constitutional right to abortion in violation of fifty years of precedent,” said Julie Murray, senior staff attorney for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Marva Sadler, one of the named plaintiffsin the abortion providers’ lawsuit and senior director of clinical services for Whole Woman’s Health, said the appellate decisions make it much more likely SB 8 will go into effect Sept. 1.

“I’ve been really focused on how things will look on Wednesday, when we have to start turning most patients away,” she said.

Abortion opponents have celebrated the passage of SB 8, especially its provisions allowing private citizens a role in enforcement.

“The pro-life movement is very excited to have a part to play and to make sure SB 8 is going to be followed,” said John Seago, legislative director for Texas Right to Life.

If the law goes into effect, clinics will follow it, said Helene Krasnoff, Planned Parenthood Federation of America vice president of public policy litigation and law.

“If this law is not blocked, we are going to be complying with the law,” Krasnoff said.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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