Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two high-profile legal challenges to Texas’ near-total abortion ban that prohibits the procedure as early as six weeks, which is before many people know they are pregnant. The arguments are slated to begin around 9 a.m. Central time Monday.
Under Senate Bill 8, enforcement of the new restrictions is left to private citizens instead of state officials because it allows anyone to file lawsuits against people who perform or assist someone in getting an abortion. People or groups that are successfully sued can face penalties of at least $10,000. It’s a restrictive law that, if upheld, ends abortion access for millions across the state. The most recent court ruling on the issue allowed the law to remain in effect while the law works its way through the appeals system.
The arguments the high court is hearing Monday, however, are not expected to be focused on the constitutionality of abortion. The first case, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, is about whether the U.S. can file legal battles targeting Texas, judges and others to prevent people from being sued under the state’s new abortion law. This could bring clarity to who can be sued in any attempt to challenge SB 8 from being enforced. In the second case, brought by abortion providers, the court will consider whether a state “can insulate from federal-court review a law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right” by offloading its enforcement to the general public.
But while the arguments in the cases brought Monday are narrow, the justices can ask any questions and ultimately issue any ruling they wish — which makes it hard to predict exactly what could happen. However, watchers of the court and legal experts agree a broad ruling is unlikely. It is also unlikely that a ruling will come Monday.
Read more coverage about the state’s near-total abortion ban here:
- We annotated the provisions of Senate Bill 8 that outline the enforcement process, perhaps the most unusual aspect of the state’s near-total ban.
- The law’s unusual enforcement mechanism is leaving abortion providers across the state without a playbook to respond and few options to fight the restrictions in court.
- This new law is the latest, most devastating blow from lawmakers who have been on a warpath to steamroll abortion access for decades. Getting an abortion in Texas has become more difficult than anywhere else in the nation.
- While the law has widely been referred to a six-week ban, the reality is closer to two weeks. Calling it strictly a six-week ban fails to take into account the nuance in circumstances many people face when it comes to pregnancy.
- A Texas doctor from San Antonio is already facing two lawsuits for performing an abortion illegally under the state’s new law. He announced that he performed the procedure in a Washington Post column, saying that he “wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
- In addition to this Texas law, advocates on both sides are closely watching a highly anticipated Mississippi case heading to the U.S. Supreme Court that could overturn Roe v. Wade. If the court were to overturn Roe, however, it could lead “trigger laws” across 12 states — including Texas — that ban all abortions to go into effect.