U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear challenge to controversial Texas abortion law

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to a hearing on Nov. 1 to challenge a Texas law that puts a near-complete ban on the procedure and lets private citizens enforce it — a case that dramatically changed the way United The state could reduce abortion access if justices backed the measure’s unique design.

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The judges requested an immediate review of their challenges to the law by President Joe Biden’s administration and abortion providers. The court, which allowed the law to take effect on September 1, declined to act on the Justice Department’s request for the measure to be implemented immediately.

The court will consider whether the law’s unusual private-enforcement structure prevents federal courts from intervening to end it and whether the federal government is allowed to sue the state for trying to block it.

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The measure bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a point when many women do not yet realize they are pregnant. It makes exceptions for a documented medical emergency but not for rape or incest cases.

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Liberal Justice Sotomayor disagreed with the court’s decision to block enforcement of the law while the trial continued. Sotomayor said the law’s novel design has led to the suspension of nearly all abortions in Texas, the second most populous US state with about 29 million people.

“The yoke of the state has worked. The impact is appalling,” Sotomayor wrote.

The Texas dispute is the second major abortion case that the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, has set for the coming months, with arguments over the legality of the restrictive Mississippi abortion law set for December 1.

The Texas and Mississippi measures are just one of a series of Republican-backed laws limiting abortion rights at the state level — coming at a time when anti-abortion anti-abortion is hoping that the Supreme Court will seek the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade that legalized the process nationwide. .

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Mississippi has asked Justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the Texas attorney general indicated Thursday that he would also like to see that ruling fall.

Lower courts have already blocked Mississippi’s law banning abortions from 15 weeks’ gestation.

The Texas measure takes enforcement out of the hands of state officials, instead enabling private citizens to prosecute anyone who helps to obtain an abortion after cardiac activity is detected in a fetus. That feature has helped keep the law from being blocked immediately because it made it difficult to sue the state directly.

Individual citizens may be awarded a minimum of $10,000 to bring successful lawsuits under the law. Critics have said that the provision allows people to act as anti-abortion bounty hunters, a feature its supporters have rejected.

Nancy Northup, chair of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing abortion providers, said Friday’s decision to hear her case “gets us one step closer to the restoration of Texans’ constitutional rights and at the heart of the havoc and heart of this ban.” Eliminates pain.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, president of healthcare and abortion provider Planned Parenthood, said it was “devastating” that judges didn’t immediately block a law already having “disastrous effects” after it took effect nearly two months.

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“Patients who have the means have fled the state, traveling hundreds of miles to get basic care, and those who don’t have the means have been forced to conceive against their will,” he said. ,” He said.

Kimberlynn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Texas Right to Life anti-abortion group, praised the court’s action, saying it “will continue to save an estimated 100 babies per day, and because judges will actually discuss whether these lawsuits are valid in the first place.” “

The Supreme Court rarely decides to hear cases before they are ruled by lower courts, indicating that the judges consider the Texas case to be of high public importance and in need of immediate review.

The Justice Department filed its lawsuit in September challenging the Texas law, arguing that it is unconstitutional and explicitly designed to evade judicial review.

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Decisions in the Texas and Mississippi cases are due by the end of next June, but could come sooner.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

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