November 28, 2021

Biden administration to ask Supreme Court to block Texas abortion restriction law

The law, at the heart of a fierce legal battle, prohibits abortion as soon as the embryo’s heartbeat is detectable, i.e. around six weeks of pregnancy.

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The Biden administration announced Friday, October 15, that it would ask the United States Supreme Court to block an extremely restrictive Texas law on abortion. Seized for the first time, the high court refused to suspend the application of the text. “The Ministry of Justice intends to ask the Supreme Court” to intervene again on this law which has banned most abortions in this southern state for a month and a half, declared its spokesperson Anthony Coley.

The law, at the heart of a fierce legal battle, prohibits abortion as soon as the embryo’s heartbeat is detectable, i.e. around six weeks of pregnancy. At this stage, most women are still unaware that they are pregnant. The text does not provide for an exception in cases of incest or rape. Comparable laws have been struck down in court because they violate the Supreme Court’s case law, which guarantees the right of women to have an abortion as long as the fetus is not viable, i.e. around 22 weeks of pregnancy. But the text of Texas has a unique device: it confides “exclusively” it is up to citizens to ensure that the measure is respected by encouraging them to file a complaint against organizations or people who help women to have illegal abortions.

The Supreme Court, where the Conservative justices have a clear majority, invoked these “new questions of procedure” to refuse, on September 1, to block the entry into force of the law. The federal government then entered the legal arena, filing a lawsuit against Texas on its behalf. In early October, a trial judge ruled in his favor and suspended the law, but the decision has since been overturned by an appeals court.

The Ministry of Justice now intends to ask the Supreme Court to reinstate the decision of the judge of first instance. He should formally address his appeal to him in the coming days. The decision of the high court will be closely followed. His initial refusal to intervene had been seen as proof of a “right turn”, under the aegis of judges appointed by former President Donald Trump. In early October, thousands of abortion rights activists protested outside his headquarters to ask him to change his footing.