A Texas federal judge will hear arguments today in a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department that challenges a Texas abortion bill that took effect this summer. A decision in today’s hearing will determine whether or not the bill is temporarily halted while its constitutionality is argued in court.
Texas’s Senate Bill 8, considered the most restrictive abortion bill in decades, bans procedures after a fetal heartbeat is detected, at around six weeks — before many women know they are pregnant. The law also allows private citizens to sue anyone who assists an individual procure an abortion after this time, including medical providers.
Opponents of the bill, who have filed numerous lawsuits that challenge its constitutionality, petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the law from taking effect while the matter is decided in the court system. On August 31, the Supreme Court denied the request. Although the justices did not rule on the constitutionality of the bill, their decision effectively allowed it to become law on September 1.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the Biden administration filed a lawsuit against Texas that, if successful, would prevent the state from enforcing the law.
“The Act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement made back in September. “The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.”
Since the bill has gone into effect, “Abortion care has almost completely stopped in our state,” said Texas abortion provider Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi in a statement made to the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee at a hearing on Thursday, the AP reports.
The Texas law is one of many across the country that seeks to restrict abortion access. In December, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a Mississippi case that bans abortion at 15 weeks. The case presents a substantial challenge to Roe. v. Wade, the 1973 decision that secured women’s right to choose.