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With the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set to hear arguments about Texas’ restrictive new abortion law Friday, abortion providers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to again intervene and instead send the case to a lower court.
Abortion providers filed the request Monday, along with a motion to expedite the high court’s ruling on the matter ahead of Friday’s hearing. Lawyers for the providers argue that the 5th Circuit should send the case to district court, which in October temporarily blocked enforcement of the law.
At the heart of this case is Texas’ novel legislation that empowers private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” in an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. The law is designed to evade judicial review and has been successful on that front: Women have largely been unable to obtain constitutionally protected abortions in Texas since Sept. 1.
In December, the Supreme Court threw out most of the providers’ challenges to the law and allowed only one narrow challenge, against medical licensing officials, to proceed. The court also allowed the restrictions on the procedure to remain in place.
Then, in an additional blow to abortion providers, the Supreme Court sent that one remaining challenge to be reargued before the 5th Circuit, considered one of the most politically conservative circuit courts in the nation. Providers had been expecting it to be sent to the district court, which was seen as a more favorable venue.
The 5th Circuit agreed to hear arguments in the case on Friday and will consider whether the case should be sent to the Texas Supreme Court to proceed. Legal experts say certifying a case to the state supreme court can extend the appeals process by months, if not years.
Abortion providers argue that this delay is harming women seeking abortions.
“For more than four months, Texans have been forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term or flee the state to access constitutionally protected care,” said Julie Murray, senior staff attorney with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The Fifth Circuit has effectively shrugged in the face of this chaos, and the continued delay is completely unacceptable.”
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.