Updated at 12:09 p.m. E.T.
President Biden has slammed the Supreme Court’s decision not to block a Texas abortion bill as “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade,” he said in a statement made a few minutes ago.
“By allowing a law to go into effect that empowers private citizens in Texas to sue health care providers, family members supporting a woman exercising her right to choose after six weeks, or even a friend who drives her to a hospital or clinic, it unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,” the President added. “Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women.”
The Supreme Court made its 5-4 decision late Wednesday night, allowing the Texas bill to take effect. The bill, which prohibits abortions after six weeks, is among the most restrictive in the country.
The law, Senate Bill 8, was signed by governor Greg Abbott in May, and bans the procedure after six weeks — at around the time cardiac activity is detected in the fetus — including in cases of rape and incest.
The law also makes it possible for private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone they believe has aided or abetted in providing the procedure, which could include medical providers, counselors, and even family, friends, or drivers who provide direct or indirect support in helping an individual obtain an abortion after six weeks. This makes the law trickier to block in federal courts, as it does not require public officials to enforce it. Instead, the matter is left to private individuals.
Providers petitioned the Supreme Court to block the law from going into effect. In an emergency application filed in the court, providers wrote that the bill “would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas, barring care for at least 85 percent of Texas abortion patients (those who are six weeks pregnant or greater) and likely forcing many abortion clinics ultimately to close,” The New York Times reports.
In a dissent written Wednesday night, Justice Sotomayor blasted her colleagues for their decision, writing that their denial to block the law “equates to a near-categorical ban on abortions beginning six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, before many women realize they are pregnant, and months before fetal viability.”
Opponents of the bill argue that that it is an attempt to ban abortion at the state level by making it nearly impossible to obtain a procedure so early in the pregnancy.
“In less than two days, Texas politicians will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement to The Guardian. “It’s cruel, unconscionable, and unlawful.”
Should the law succeed in Texas, it’s likely that other states may try to pass similar measures limiting abortion access. However, in his address Biden said that he is directing the White House Counsel “to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”