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The Texas Heartbeat Act

The state of Texas has outlawed abortions after six weeks by passing the Heartbeat Act. The earliest sign of pregnancy usually happens two weeks after conception. Although, more often than not, women discover they are pregnant between weeks four through seven. 85% to 90% of abortions take place after six weeks.

The majority of Americans (52%) said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, with just 36% saying it should be illegal in most or all cases.

On Wednesday 9/1/21, the Supreme Court allowed the Texas ban to continue in a 5-4 vote, rejecting an emergency application by abortion-rights groups. The reason being, the groups seeking emergency relief had not addressed complex and novel procedural questions in the case.

The law does not provide exceptions for rape or incest, although exemptions for medical emergencies is allowed. And anyone suspected of helping a person obtain an abortion, can be sued by any other person. Those who successfully incriminate the suspect, can be awarded at least $10,000. Texas Right to Life set up a whistleblower website in which people can submit tips on individuals that they believe are violating the law.

Chief Justice Roberts said that he would have temporarily blocked the law to allow lower courts to debate its constitutionality. His focus was on the law allowing "the populace at large" to enforce it instead of the state. He called the Texas ban, "not only unusual, but unprecedented."

A constitutional law expert at Harvard, Laurence Tribe said, "The Constitution, including Roe v. Wade, only applies against the government, it doesn’t apply against private individuals. That’s what makes this really dangerous. It’s a kind of vigilante justice, circumventing all of the mechanisms we have for making sure that the law is enforced fairly, and that it’s not enforced in a way that violates people’s rights."

The Texas law prevents government officials from enforcing the ban and instead gives private citizens that power. A ban on abortion has not been permitted in any state since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973.

The issue before the Supreme Court was not whether the Texas law is constitutional but whether it should temporarily block the law’s enforcement while the case is litigated. The court said, "In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts."

Rick Hasen, American legal scholar and expert in legislation said, "No, Roe v. Wade was not overruled tonight. But the ease with which Texas purported to bulldoze the Court's abortion jurisprudence tells you all you need to know about the right to choose before this Court."

Republican strategist Matt Gorman said, “There’s a chance it fades and is a peripheral issue. There’s a chance it animates women and liberals. The key is that Republicans will be asked their stance and whether they agree or disagree. They need to be ready.”

Glenn Youngkin, Virginia Republican Primary candidate said about attacking abortion rights on the campaign trail, “I’m going to be really honest with you. The short answer is in this campaign, I can’t. When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense. But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.”

The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and the issue of whether abortions can be restricted before the fetus is viable.


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