Abortion providers ask Supreme Court to challenge Texas restrictive law

A protester waves an abortion flag outside the United States Supreme Court as judges hear a major abortion case over the legality of a Republicans-backed Louisiana law that places restrictions on physicians performing the abortion, at Capitol Hill in Washington, United States, March 4, 2020.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

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

The law, which also allows individuals to sue anyone who “aids or encourages” an abortion, came into effect on September 1.

In a 5-4 decision that day, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court rejected an emergency request to block the law, focusing on procedural issues without passing judgment on the constitutionality of the law.

Texas patients are now reportedly fleeing to other states for procedures – although advocates note that many women cannot afford to escape the new restrictions.

Rather than trying again to temporarily block Texas law, Thursday’s petition asked the Supreme Court to grant a request for reconsideration of their case. This proceeding, called a writ of certiorari, is usually filed after a lower court decision.

But abortion rights advocates, in their latest effort, have called on the High Court to take the case swiftly, rather than wait for the final judgment of an appeals court, where they say “the writing is on the wall” although the matter remains unresolved.

“Meanwhile, Texans are in crisis,” they wrote in the petition. “Faced with the threat of unlimited lawsuits from the general population 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 rising patient numbers and several-week arrears, according to the petition. Many others might not be able to make this trip if they don’t have the money, time or ability to suspend their obligations, or if they fear reprisal from their partner or family, according to the petition.

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

Lawyers acknowledged that the shadow Supreme Court ruling did not prevent them from filing a complaint against the law in state court. But they argued that the handful of pending cases there “could take months, if not years, to pass through the state court system before they can provide statewide relief.” .

“The Court should act now to resolve the matter presented on an expedited basis, with the benefit of a briefing and argument that was not possible when the petitioners filed their emergency request,” the petition said.

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