Biden rips Texas abortion law as 'extreme,' violation of Roe v. Wade

Biden rips Texas abortion law as 'extreme,' violation of Roe v. Wade

September 1, 2021

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President Biden criticized a new Texas law that prohibits abortion except for during the very beginning of pregnancy or in cases of medical emergencies, stating that it goes against established Supreme Court precedent.

The law, which went into effect Wednesday, bans abortion if there is a fetal heartbeat. This can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – before many women even realize they are pregnant.

“This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision said that states could not ban abortions before a fetus is viable (capable of life outside the womb), a stage typically understood to be reached at approximately 24 weeks.

The Texas law is unusually drafted in that it forbids government officials from enforcing it, instead relying on the public to report allegations of abortions that do not comply with the law. The law calls for people bringing these claims to be awarded at least $10,000 if they are successful in court. Claims cannot be brought against women getting abortions, but they can be filed against those who perform them or assist women in getting them.

“The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes,” Biden’s statement continued. “And, outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual.”

Abortion providers including Whole Woman’s Health and Planned Parenthood have been waging a court battle against the law, eventually turning to the Supreme Court to step in and block the law pending the conclusion of the case. They filed a petition on Monday and Justice Samuel Alito gave Texas officials until Tuesday evening to submit responses, which they did.

Despite receiving those documents as well as a reply brief from the abortion providers, Alito has not taken any official action. As the justice assigned to the Fifth Circuit, where the case came from, Alito has the ability to rule on the matter himself or refer it to the whole court. Because no ruling has been handed down, the law went into effect at midnight Wednesday.

Both Whole Woman’s Health and Planned Parenthood said they are complying with the law. Attorney Marc Hearron of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who serves as the lead attorney for the organizations, said that 90% of abortions in Texas take place after the fetus has reached six weeks, making the new law a “total ban” on abortion. 

Whole Woman’s Health CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said the organization was performing abortions until minutes before the midnight deadline, while anti-abortion protesters demonstrated outside.

The mechanism of only allowing private citizens to enforce the law is the crux of the counterargument to the abortion providers’ request for an injunction. Government officials say that an injunction against them would do nothing. The one private citizen being sued, pro-life activist Mark Lee Dickson, said he does not intend to sue anyone for violating the law, and argues that enjoining him from doing so while the case continues to be litigated would not solve anything.

Dickson’s Supreme Court brief claimed that an injunction “will do nothing to prevent Senate Bill 8 from taking effect on September 1, 2021, and … will prevent only the eight defendants in this case from “enforcing” the statute after it goes into effect tomorrow.”

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