Abortion Providers Ask SCOTUS to Block Texas ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Law

Abortion Providers Ask SCOTUS to Block Texas 'Fetal Heartbeat' Law Abortion Providers Ask SCOTUS to Block Texas 'Fetal Heartbeat' Law (Getty Images)

By Fran Beyer | Monday, 30 August 2021 02:54 PM

A group of abortion providers asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block a Texas law that would ban virtually all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, The Hill reported.

The law, which authorizes citizens to sue those who perform or "aid" abortions after the roughly six-week ban is triggered, is set to take effect on Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"Nearly fifty years ago, this Court held that Texas could not ban abortion prior to viability," the group wrote in a court brief, referring to the 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, The Hill reported.

"Yet, absent intervention from this Court, in less than two days, on Wednesday, September 1, Texas will do precisely that."

The request was filed to Justice Samuel Alito, who handles emergency matters arising from Texas.

The request came a day after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals delayed legal proceedings over Texas’ sweeping new six-week abortion ban, dealing the setback to abortion providers who sued to stop the ban and set up the last-ditch plea to the Supreme Court.

In a single-page ruling, the court blocked a hearing that had been set for Monday and declined to expedite the appeals process. It gave no explanation for the decision, the Chronicle reported.

Providers performed about 54,000 abortions last year and 56,000 in 2019, the Chronicle reported, citing state data.

The Texas measure is among a number of abortion restrictions that state legislatures have passed in recent years that pose a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, which prohibits states from banning abortion before fetal viability, typically around 24 weeks, The Hill noted.

Signed into law in May by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas’s S.B. 8 prohibits abortions after the presence of a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks after a woman becomes pregnant, and only makes exceptions for medical emergencies.

Federal courts have blocked similar bills passed in other states, including North Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky, and Mississippi, The Hill reported.

The Texas bill is unique in that it prohibits public officials from enforcing it — an apparent effort to sidestep legal challenges. Instead, the law deputizes members of the public to sue abortion providers and those who "aid or abet" the procedure after the ban is triggered around six weeks.

The Supreme Court is set to take on a separate challenge to Roe v. Wade when they review a a Mississippi restriction that bans abortions after 15 weeks, with only narrow exceptions.