Abortion providers ask Supreme Court to quickly take up challenge of restrictive Texas law

Health, Fitness & Food

A demonstrator holds up an abortion flag outside of the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear a major abortion case on the legality of a Republican-backed Louisiana law that imposes restrictions on abortion doctors, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 4, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

A group of abortion providers and advocates asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to quickly review their challenge to a highly restrictive abortion law in Texas, which bans most abortions after as early as six weeks.

That law, which also allows private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone who “aids or abets” in an abortion, went into effect on Sept. 1.

In a 5-4 decision that day, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court rejected an emergency request to block the law, focusing on procedural questions while making no judgment about the constitutionality of the law.

Patients in Texas are now reportedly fleeing to other states for procedures — though advocates note many women lack the means to evade the new restrictions.

Rather than try again to temporarily block the Texas law, Thursday’s petition asked the Supreme Court to grant a request to review their case. That procedure, called a writ of certiorari, is generally filed after a ruling in a lower court.

But the abortion-rights advocates in their latest effort asked the high court to take up the case quickly, rather than wait for final judgment in an appeals court, where they say “the writing is on the wall” even though the matter remains pending.

“Meanwhile, Texans are in crisis,” they wrote in the petition. “Faced with the threat of unlimited lawsuits from the general populace and the prospect of ruinous liability if they violate the ban, abortion providers have been forced to comply.”

The law forces many pregnant women to travel hundreds of miles to neighboring states, where providers are grappling with a surge in patients and weekslong backlogs, the petition said. Many others may be unable to make that trek if they don’t have the money, the time or the ability to put their obligations on hold, or if they fear retaliation from their partners or families, the petition said.

“All these individuals must carry to term or seek ways to induce an abortion without medical assistance, as reports now suggest more Texans are doing,” according to the petition.

The advocates acknowledged that the Supreme Court’s shadow-docket decision did not preclude them from filing suit against the law in state court. But they argued that the handful of cases pending there “could take months, if not years, to wend through the state-court system before they could provide statewide relief.”

“The Court should act now to resolve the question presented on an expedited basis, with the benefit of briefing and argument that was impossible when Petitioners filed their emergency application,” the petition said.

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