WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — Senators on the Judiciary Committee took a look Wednesday at the new Texas abortion law, Senate Bill 8. The law bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, which could be around six weeks into a pregnancy. Citizens can also help enforce the law.
Democrats say the Supreme Court abused its “shadow docket” when it failed to stop the law from going into effect. Republicans, however, say the Supreme Court is just doing its job.
A shadow docket is a procedure where justices can decide weighty cases on an emergency basis, without paper briefs or oral arguments. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, says the Supreme Court is abusing it, “for ideologically-driven legal schemes to rewrite the law,” he added.
Durbin said the justices used this procedure last month to greenlight Texas’ restrictive abortion law.
“It’s a five-alarm fire for due process,” he said.
Texas State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, told senators the high court’s refusal to block the law created serious consequences for both women and doctors in Texas.
“They’re doing crisis counseling now for these people who are coming with their unwanted pregnancies, unable to terminate them and desperate about what they’re going to be able to do,” Howard said.
But Republicans in the committee room say the court did nothing wrong.
“The Supreme Court did something very ordinary,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. He said the use of the so-called shadow docket is not new, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, criticized Democrats for trying to intimidate the court.
“Really a shame on the part of our Democratic colleagues to attack judicial independence,” Cornyn said.
Durbin fears the conservative-leaning high court will continue to use the procedure to push an ideological agenda. He wants future decisions be made through a public process, with explained, on-the-record rulings.