The Supreme Court made millions of pro-choice advocates extremely nervous on Wednesday when it decided not to intervene as a new Texas abortion law took effect. If it remains intact, the Texas heartbeat bill will be the most restrictive abortion law in the country, preventing 85% of women in Texas, the country's second-most-populous state, from getting an abortion. In other words, it's the biggest victory for pro-life advocates since the dawn of the Roe v. Wade era.
The bill outlaws abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which typically occurs around 6 weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. Abortion clinics across the state already started cancelling appointments as they waited to see if the law would take effect.
A group of abortion providers are asking the Supreme Court to step in and overturn the law. At least 12 other states have enacted bans on abortion early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.
The Supreme Court could act on Wednesday, though the justices don’t have any firm deadline. The providers are challenging a federal appeals court decision that effectively blocked any pre-enforcement challenge.
One provision that makes the law unique is the fact that private citizens will be allowed to sue providers and anyone involved in "facilitating coverage", which could mean people who drive others to the abortion clinic could be found liable in court to losses of at least $10,000. The ACLU says this provision "actively encourages private citizens to act as bounty hunters".
Unsurprisingly, the law taking effect elicited outraged cries from the blue-check commentariat, including CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Midnight in Austin. For the first time since 1973, a state has banned abortion. The great conservative legal project has succeeded. RIP #RoeVWade— Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) September 1, 2021
Fortunately for Toobin, masturbation doesn't lead to pregnancy.
One doctor accused the Texas legislature of practicing "eugenics", although we're not certain that word means what the good doctor thinks it means.
Texas isn’t passing an abortion ban.— Leah Torres, MD (@LeahNTorres) September 1, 2021
Texas is passing a reproductive coercion law.
Government sanctioned reproductive coercion. Different side of the forced sterilization coin.
This is fascism. This is eugenics. This is tyranny. This is the destruction of democracy in The USA.
Unsurprisingly, pro-choice groups seized on the occasion as a fundraising opportunity.
Overnight, #RoevWade was effectively overturned in Texas, and it will not stop here. Educate yourselves, please, and consider donating to a Texas abortion fund like @lilithfund, @FronteraFund, or @casnhtx. https://t.co/f8JOTyQ67g— Jennifer Mathieu (@jenmathieu) September 1, 2021
In the coming months, SCOTUS will hear a Mississippi appeal that seeks to overturn Roe v Wade. But even before then, a decision to protect the Texas law could signal that SCOTUS is leaning toward "toppling precedents that protect abortion until much later in pregnancy," according to Bloomberg.