More US States Ban Abortion As Democrats Push Back

 In this file photo taken on July 9, 2022 an abortion rights activist shouts during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC. A US federal judge blocked part of a law banning most abortions in Idaho on August 25, 2022, a victory for US President Joe Biden's administration. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 9, 2022 an abortion rights activist shouts during a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, DC. A US federal judge blocked part of a law banning most abortions in Idaho on August 25, 2022, a victory for US President Joe Biden’s administration. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP

 

Abortion became illegal in three more US states on Thursday, further restricting access to elective terminations for millions of women despite some signs of popular and judicial pushback.

Two months after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, nearly 21 million women have already lost access to the procedure in their home states, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

And with Idaho, Tennessee and Texas joining 10 other Republican-controlled states on Thursday in implementing near-total bans on abortion, that number is set to rise. Another dozen states are expected to follow suit with their own restrictions.

The laws in Idaho, Tennessee and Texas were “triggered” after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision enshrining a woman’s right to an abortion and allowed states to set their own laws.

In Texas, under the new law, doctors could face life in prison and a fine of no less than $100,000 for performing an abortion. Texas and Tennessee make no exceptions for rape or incest, though Idaho does.

State restrictions range from total bans on elective abortions to bans after six weeks, when many women do not even know they are pregnant. Many women have already been forced to travel hundreds of miles to obtain the procedure in other states.

Democratic President Joe Biden condemned the ruling by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court and has pledged to do everything within his power to ensure access to abortion.

The Biden administration notched up a narrow victory in Idaho on Wednesday when a judge ruled that federal law requires doctors to provide abortions to women suffering medical emergencies at hospitals that receive Medicare funding from the government.

In an illustration of the complicated legal landscape, however, a judge in Texas, an appointee of Republican Donald Trump, issued a contrary ruling in a similar case, setting the stage for further court battles.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre welcomed the outcome in Idaho but called the Texas ruling a “devastating decision for women in that state, who can now be denied the same life-saving care.”

Besides battling in the courts, Democrats are hoping abortion will be a galvanizing issue for their candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.

US voters will decide control of Congress in November, with all 435 House seats up for grabs, as well as 35 of the 100 Senate seats and the governor’s mansion in 36 out of 50 states.

‘Health care is on the ballot’

“More women today are living with fewer freedoms thanks to Republicans’ relentless war to ban abortion in their states,” Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison said.

“Make no mistake: No matter what state you live in, reproductive health care is on the ballot this November, and GOP candidates will be held accountable for their extreme anti-choice agenda,” Harrison said.

A Democratic candidate notched up a victory in a special election in New York on Tuesday seen as a bellwether of the public mood on abortion ahead of November’s midterms.

According to political data firm Target Smart, women have been outpacing men in new voter registrations in numerous states.

In a Pew Research Center poll, 56 percent of registered voters said the abortion issue will be very important in their midterm vote, up from 43 percent in March.

Abortion rights advocates also recently celebrated a victory in a referendum in Kansas that would have removed the right to the procedure from the constitution of the conservative midwestern state.

The state is a Republican stronghold, but Kansans, by a 59 to 41 percent margin amid unusually heavy turnout, rejected the amendment that would have scrapped language in the state constitution guaranteeing the right to abortion.

Planned Parenthood, which lobbies for abortion access and plans to reportedly spend $50 million on the midterms, called the Kansas vote “a clear warning to anti-abortion politicians.”

While some two dozen Republican-led states are restricting access to abortion, a number of Democratic-controlled states, including giants California and New York, are putting protections in place.

 

AFP

Americans Seeking Abortion Get Help From Mexico

A medical assistant checks a patient's pregnancy test result at the Women's Reproductive Clinic, which provides legal medication abortion services, in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on June 17, 2022. Robyn Beck / AFP
A medical assistant checks a patient’s pregnancy test result at the Women’s Reproductive Clinic, which provides legal medication abortion services, in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on June 17, 2022. Robyn Beck / AFP

 

Facing high medical costs and pressure to reconsider, a single mother living in California turned to activists across the border in Mexico who helped her have an abortion.

“We’re supposed to be in a free country, in a state where you can smoke marijuana, but abortion is still somewhat taboo,” the 31-year-old said, shortly before the US Supreme Court ended the nationwide right to the procedure.

The woman, of Mexican descent, believes terminating a pregnancy will now become ever harder, although the liberal West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington jointly vowed to defend abortion rights.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to overturn the nationwide right to abortion gives all 50 states the freedom to ban the procedure, and nearly half are expected to do so in some form.

READ ALSO: From New York To California, Liberals Create Abortion Sanctuaries

Even before the ruling, accessing a safe abortion in the United States was already “complicated if you don’t have money,” said the mother of three, who works in a restaurant in San Diego.

She initially visited two clinics in the United States, but at both the cost of the procedure was almost $1,000, which she could not afford.

At one of the facilities, which had religious links, she was discouraged from having an abortion.

“They told me there were other options, that I could give it up for adoption. But I was determined, desperate,” she told AFP by telephone, explaining that she got pregnant because contraceptives failed.

‘Huge setback’

Through a friend, the woman learned about Colectiva Bloodys, a non-government organization in Tijuana just south of San Diego that is part of a cross-border network providing free assistance to women in the United States who cannot access an abortion.

“I was surprised that they helped me from Mexico. I thought that we were more liberal here,” she said.

“Everything moved very quickly there. In less than a day they said ‘here’s the solution,'” the woman said.

She was sent a combination of medication that ends a pregnancy by causing the uterus to contract, a method considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO), mainly for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The NGO responded quickly to any follow-up questions and “was always supportive,” she added.

Colectiva Bloodys has sent these treatments to conservative-led US states such as Oklahoma, Texas and Georgia for a few years and expects more requests following the Supreme Court ruling, said one of its members, Crystal Perez Lira.

“It’s very unfortunate, a huge setback; but we are going to have the capacity and the will” to offer support, Perez Lira said.

Mexican activists had already been surprised by the amount of interest from women in the United States in the cross-border network, launched in January in the face of obstacles to accessing a safe abortion.

“As of May, we had assisted 200 women who crossed the border and sent 1,000 sets of medicine. We didn’t expect so many,” said Veronica Cruz, founder of Las Libres, one of some 30 groups in the network.

Financial constraints

While the activists had expected mainly Latinas to seek their help, they have also been approached by non-Spanish speakers.

“Most turn to us for financial reasons. Over there the medication costs about $600 or they have to wait weeks to get it from organizations. We give it for free,” Cruz said.

Some of the women seeking assistance in Mexico are reluctant to go to a clinic in the United States because they lack the necessary immigration documents.

“We don’t invade their privacy. We don’t question their legal status or their nationality,” said Perez Lira.

In contrast to the US ruling, Mexico’s Supreme Court last year declared the laws criminalizing abortion unconstitutional, authorizing it de facto throughout the conservative Latin American country.

In Mexico City, which decriminalized abortion in 2007 and provides free care regardless of place of residence, authorities pledged to support women from the United States following the court ruling.

“It’s truly regressive, sad and outrageous that in a country where these rights had been recognized they are going backwards. We’ll be ready to help,” the city’s health secretary, Oliva Lopez Arellano, told AFP.

“We have the capacity for around 25,000 legal terminations a year and now we’re at half that,” she said.

One in 10 of the 247,000 abortions carried out in the city in the past 15 years have been for migrants heading to the United States, most of them Central Americans, she added.

In addition to Mexico City, eight more of Mexico’s 32 states have decriminalized abortion.

 

AFP

From New York To California, Liberals Create Abortion Sanctuaries

The sun sets on abortion rights activist marching from Washington Square Park to Bryant Park in protest of the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the US Supreme Court, in New York, on June 24, 2022.  (Photo by Alex Kent / AFP)

 

 

 

Liberal states in America have pledged to act as safe havens for women seeking abortions as providers ratchet up capacity in anticipation of a surge of patients from areas where the procedure will be banned.

“We know that the need is going to skyrocket,” said Sarah Moeller of the Brigid Alliance, a New York-based group that provides travel, accommodation and other support for women looking for an abortion.

The organization helps more than 100 people every month, helping some women travel 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) to get to their appointment.

It is hiring more staff and boosting fundraising efforts as it anticipates its clients could quickly swell more than tenfold in the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court’s ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion.

“It’s going to be impossible for every single person who needs to travel for care to be able to receive support. So every individual who we are able to help is a victory,” Moeller told AFP.

By overturning Roe v. Wade, the court is leaving it up to individual states to restrict or ban the procedure — meaning women there would either have to continue with their pregnancy, undergo a clandestine abortion, obtain abortion pills, or travel to another state where the procedure remains legal.

The Democratic governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint video message declaring that the West Coast will “remain a place where reproductive health care will be accessible and protected.”

On the other side of the country, New York governor Kathy Hochul said the northeast state “will always be a safe harbor for those seeking access to abortion care.”

She announced a new advertising campaign to inform Americans that they can receive abortions while in her state.

“Everyone who passes through our subways, bus terminals, airports, and shopping centers will know that abortion remains safe, legal, and accessible in New York state,” she tweeted.

Hochul had earlier pledged $35 million to assist access to abortion while lawmakers in California have allocated $152 million.

New York state legalized abortion in 1970, three years before the Roe v. Wade ruling.

“I’m happy that I live in a state where I feel like my rights will be protected,” 36-year-old Nabila Valentin told AFP in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“So I’m grateful in a sense, but I also realize it’s such a privilege to be able to live in this in this city, in New York State, to feel safe and protected.

“I feel like it’s not going to be like that for a lot of other people,” the doula added.

New York City is home to one of America’s first abortion clinics — Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens which was established 1971.

– ‘Challenge’ –
Founder Merle Hoffman said the clinic expects to see “a great many more women” visiting from out of state.

“We have the physical capacity, (but) we will have to staff up in different areas. It’s a challenge, but we’ll be able to step up to make it,” the 76-year-old told AFP.

Her message to women seeking an abortion is a simple one: “We will help you.”

Dr Alice Mark, an abortion provider in Massachusetts and medical advisor at the National Abortion Federation, notes that it will only become clear where, and how far, women will have to travel after states have enforced bans.

A progressive state like Illinois, which is surrounded by states that restrict abortion, can expect to see a huge influx of patients for example.

Flor Hunt of TEACH, an organization that provides abortion training in California, said the state could see “an increase of nearly 3,000 women of reproductive age for whom the nearest provider is in California.”

“How many of those patients are actually going to be able to travel to California, I think that remains to be seen,” she told AFP.

In Massachusetts, Mark is unsure what sort of increase her clinic will see but is getting ready by opening more days and adding extra procedure times.

“Abortion is incredibly safe, abortion is still available, and there are many resources to help you get the abortion that you need. Don’t stop until you get what you want,” she told AFP.

US Supreme Court Ends Right To Abortion

US Supreme Court overturns landmark abortion ruling
A pro-choice supporter cries outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 24, 2022. The US Supreme Court on Friday ended the right to abortion in a seismic ruling that shreds half a century of constitutional protections on one of the most divisive and bitterly fought issues in American political life. OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP

 

 

The US Supreme Court on Friday ended the right to abortion in a seismic ruling that shreds half a century of constitutional protections on one of the most divisive and bitterly fought issues in American political life.

The conservative-dominated court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v Wade” decision that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion, saying that individual states can now permit or restrict the procedure themselves.

“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives,” the court said.

In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito said “abortion presents a profound moral issue on which Americans hold sharply conflicting views.

“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion,” he said.

Dissenting were the three liberals on the court.

The ruling will likely set into motion a cavalcade of new laws in roughly half of the 50 US states that will severely restrict or outright ban and criminalise abortions, forcing women to travel long distances to states that still permit the procedure.

The opinion shredded the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the nation’s highest court that said women had the right to abortion based on the constitutional right to privacy over their own bodies.

Alito’s opinion largely mirrors his draft opinion that was the subject of an extraordinary leak in early May, sparking demonstrations around the country and tightened security at the court in downtown Washington.

Barricades have been erected around the court to keep back the protesters gathered outside — after an armed man was arrested on June 8 near the home of conservative justice Brett Kavanaugh.

The court’s ruling goes against an international trend of easing abortion laws, including in countries like Ireland, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia where the Catholic Church continues to wield considerable influence.

– Victory for religious right –

It represents a victory of 50 years of struggle against abortion by the religious right but the anti-abortion camp is expected to continue to push for an outright nationwide ban.

The ruling was made possible by the nomination of three conservative justices to the court by former Republican president Donald Trump — Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

The case before the court was a Mississippi law that would restrict abortion to 15 weeks but during the hearing of the case in December, several justices indicated they were prepared to go further.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 13 states have adopted so-called “trigger laws” that will ban abortion following the move by the Supreme Court.

Ten others have pre-1973 laws that could go into force or legislation that would ban abortion after six weeks before many women even know they are pregnant.

Women living in states with strict anti-abortion laws will either have to continue their pregnancy, undergo a clandestine abortion or obtain abortion pills, or travel to another state where the procedure remains legal.

Several Democratic-ruled states, anticipating an influx, have taken steps to facilitate abortion and clinics have also shifted their resources.

Travel is expensive, however, and abortion rights groups say abortion restrictions will severely impact poor women, many of whom are Black or Hispanic.

US Archbishop Bans Pelosi From Communion Over Abortion Rights Support

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on April 29, 2022 in Washington, DC.  Chip Somodevilla/ AFP

 

 

 

The archbishop of San Francisco told US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that she is barred from receiving communion over her support for abortion rights, the archdiocese said in a letter released Friday. 

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said he in the letter that he had previously asked Pelosi to “publicly repudiate your advocacy for abortion ‘rights’ or else refrain from referring to your Catholic faith in public and receiving Holy Communion” — or face the consequence of being denied access to the rite.

“As you have not publicly repudiated your position on abortion, and continue to refer to your Catholic faith in justifying your position and to receive Holy Communion, that time has now come,” the archbishop said.

“I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publicly repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance,” he added.

Pelosi, a lifelong Catholic from California, said she would work to pass a law to confirm women’s continued right to abortions after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 ruling that guaranteed access to the procedure nationwide.

Pelosi’s office made no immediate comment to AFP after the archbishop’s letter was made public.

Communion — the rite in which the faithful ritually consume bread and wine blessed by a priest — is a central rite in the Catholic Church.

Thousands Expected To Rally Across US For Abortion Rights

The US Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC on November 1, 2021. The Supreme Court is set to hear challenges to Texas’ restrictive abortion laws.

 

 

Thousands of activists are gearing up to take to US streets Saturday in a national day of action calling for safe and legal access to abortion.

The planned nationwide demonstrations are a response to leaked draft opinion showing the United States Supreme Court’s conservative majority is considering overturning Roe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling guaranteeing abortion access nationwide.

“Our bodies are our own — if they are not, we cannot be truly free or equal,” says a petition from Bans Off Our Bodies, which was organized by groups including Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March.

“Across the country, some politicians are trying to make decisions about our bodies for us,” it says.

“We won’t let the abortion bans sweeping the country put our lives and futures at risk, and we won’t be silenced while our fundamental right to control our bodies is taken away.”

Protesters are expected in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Austin and Chicago, as well as at hundreds of smaller events across the country.

The leak of the draft opinion has ignited fury over the potential rollback of abortion rights ahead of November’s key midterm elections, when control of both congressional chambers are at stake.

Democrats have pushed to codify abortion rights into federal law, a bid to pin down Republicans on the deeply divisive issue ahead of the crucial polls.

The House-passed Women’s Health Protection Act would assure health care providers have the right to provide abortions and that patients have the right to receive them.

But Republicans in the US Senate refused to allow a vote on the measure earlier this week.

– ‘We all lose’ –
The legislative result does not square with American opinion at large: a new Politico/Morning Consult poll has 53 percent of voters saying Roe should not be overturned, up three percentage points since last week, while 58 percent said it was important to vote for a candidate who supports abortion access.

Republican-controlled states already have taken steps to restrict abortion rights in recent months, and overturning Roe v. Wade would grant them far greater latitude to restrict or ban the procedure.

“We ALL lose if Roe is overturned,” tweeted Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of the Women’s March.

“Even those in small conservative towns like mine in Texas who are grateful for the abortion their wife had during a pregnancy that put her health at risk, or afraid of the one their granddaughter may be unable to access if she were raped,” she wrote.

She had earlier tweeted: “If you’re angry like me, join us on the streets this Saturday.”

The right to access abortion has long triggered activism, but the Supreme Court leak has spurred an uptick in demonstrations, including outside the homes of justices.

The largely peaceful protests have drawn Republican criticism over privacy rights of court members, but activists have responded by pointing to years of often violent protests outside abortion clinics and at the homes of doctors providing the medical procedure.

And many have cited the pending Supreme Court decision as a far greater invasion of privacy.

“You don’t get to take away my bodily autonomy and get enjoy your Saturday at home. You can do one or the other,” one protestor, Nikki Enfield, told a local CBS television affiliate.

Police in Washington, still on edge after the US Capitol was attacked by a mob of then-president Donald Trump’s supporters in January 2021, have set up temporary fencing around the Supreme Court.

The leaked opinion is also spawning renewed calls by Democrats and progressives to add justices to the nation’s highest court, fueled by the possibility that they will not stop with Roe v. Wade and could overturn other landmark decisions.

Charges Dropped Against Texas Woman Arrested For Murder Over Abortion

The US Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC on November 1, 2021. The Supreme Court is set to hear challenges to Texas’ restrictive abortion laws.

 

 

A Texas prosecutor on Monday dropped charges against a woman who had been arrested days earlier for having an abortion, in a case that has drawn national indignation.

Lizelle Herrera, 26, was arrested April 7, for “intentionally and knowingly (causing) the death of an individual by self-induced abortion,” according to police in the southern US state.

She was later released on a $500,000 bond before a Texas district attorney finally moved to drop the charges Monday, according to a court filing seen by AFP.

“In reviewing applicable Texas law, it is clear that Ms. Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her,” prosecutor Gocha Allen Ramirez said in a statement.

Nevertheless, Ramirez said, local law enforcement was justified in investigating the case after a hospital reported Herrera.

“To ignore the incident would have been a dereliction of their duty,” he said.

It is not clear whether a Texas law passed in September banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy was originally considered as the basis for Herrera’s arrest.

But the case emphasized the heightened emotions surrounding reproductive rights in the United States as several abortion laws — both restrictive and protective — make their ways through state legislatures.

They come ahead of a potential Supreme Court ruling that could overturn the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade law that enshrines the right to abortion in the United States.

“We stand with Lizelle and everyone in Texas seeking care, in spite of systemic barriers and obstacles,” reproductive care and policy advocacy organization Planned Parenthood said in a tweet.

El Salvador Woman Freed After 10 Years In Prison For Abortion

File photo of El-Salvador map

 

An El Salvadorian woman was freed from prison Wednesday, after the remaining 20 years of her 30-year sentence for having an abortion were commuted.

“We celebrate Elsy’s release from prison after 10 years behind bars,” said Morena Herrera, president of the Citizens Association for the Decriminalization of Abortion (ACDATEE), in a statement.

“Her wrongful conviction of 30 years for aggravated homicide is over.”

According to ACDATEE, Elsy — who has been identified only by her first name to preserve her anonymity — suffered an “obstetric emergency” on June 15, 2011, after which she was taken into custody.

READ ALSO: UN Court Orders Uganda To Pay DR Congo $325mn War Damages

“The judicial process was marred by irregularities, it did not respect her procedural rights, it did not respect the presumption of innocence and she was immediately detained,” the association added.

Elsy is the fifth woman imprisoned for abortion in El Salvador to be freed since December.

Since 1998, abortion under any circumstance has been outlawed in El Salvador, even in cases where there is a danger for the health of the mother or child.

While maximum prison sentences for abortion are eight years, charges are usually filed for “aggravated homicide,” which carry sentences of up to 50 years.

The director of the Women’s Equality Center, Paula Avila-Guillen, called on El Salvador President Nayib Bukele “to liberate all the other innocent women” currently behind bars under similar circumstances.

AFP

Lawmakers In Benin Republic Vote To Legalise Abortion

Lawmakers In Benin Republic Vote To Legalise Abortion

 

 

Parliamentarians in Benin have voted to legalise abortion in the West African country, where it was already authorised under restricted conditions.

Under the new law passed late on Wednesday women can terminate a pregnancy within the first three months if it is likely to “aggravate or cause material, educational, professional or moral distress, incompatible with the woman or the unborn child’s interest”.

Previously, abortion was authorised if pursing the pregnancy “threatened the life of the mother”, was “the result of a rape or incest” or when “the unborn child has a particularly severe affection”.

After a heated debate in parliament, with some lawmakers strongly opposed to legalising abortion further, the amendment finally passed.

READ ALSO: Pfizer Says COVID-19 Booster Shot 95.6% Effective

“In Benin, nearly 200 women die each year as the result of abortion complications,” said the health minister Benjamin Hounkpatin in a statement Thursday.

“This measure will be a relief for many women who face undesired pregnancies, and are forced to put their lives in danger with botched abortions,” he added.

The influential Episcopal Conference of Benin said in a statement that it was “highly preoccupied by the proposed law to legalise abortions”

AFP

US Justice Dept Asks Supreme Court To Block Texas Abortion Law

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 1, 2021 in Washington, DC.  AFP

 

US President Joe Biden’s administration, in the latest move in the battle over reproductive rights, asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block a Texas law that bans most abortions in the state.

The Texas law is “clearly unconstitutional” and violates the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, which enshrined a woman’s legal right to an abortion, the Justice Department said.

Allowing the Texas law to remain in force would “perpetuate the ongoing irreparable injury to the thousands of Texas women who are being denied their constitutional rights,” the department said in its request to the nation’s highest court.

The Justice Department filing is the latest legal maneuver in the fight over the controversial Texas law known as Senate Bill 8 (SB8), which bans abortions after six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Calling it “flagrantly unconstitutional,” US District Judge Robert Pitman issued a preliminary injunction earlier this month halting enforcement of the Texas law, which took effect on September 1.

“This court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right,” Pitman said in a blistering decision.

Days later, however, the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the Texas law pending a full hearing in December.

In its filing on Monday, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to vacate the appeals court decision.

The conservative-leaning Supreme Court last month cited procedural issues when it decided by a 5-4 vote against intervening to block the Texas law, which makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

It did not rule on the merits of the case brought by abortion providers.

 ‘Texas Heartbeat Act’ 

The “Texas Heartbeat Act” allows members of the public to sue doctors who perform abortions, or anyone who helps facilitate them, once a heartbeat is detected in the womb, which usually occurs at around six weeks.

They can be rewarded with $10,000 for initiating cases that lead to prosecution, prompting charges that the law encourages people to act as vigilantes.

The Texas law is part of a broader conservative drive to restrict abortions across the United States that has prompted a public backlash.

Laws restricting abortion have been passed in other Republican-led states but were struck down by the courts because they violated Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, which is typically around 22 to 24 weeks.

The Supreme Court is to hear a challenge on December 1 to a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

It will be the first abortion case argued before the court since the nomination of three justices by former Republican President Donald Trump, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority on the panel.

Advocates of a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy have called on Congress to enshrine the right to an abortion in federal law to protect it from any possible reversal by the Supreme Court.

A bill to that effect was adopted recently in the Democratic majority House of Representatives but has no chance of passing the Senate, where Republicans have enough votes to block it.

 

US Supreme Court Refuses To Block Texas Law Banning Most Abortions

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 01: A view of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 1, 2021 in Washington, DC. A new Texas law that prohibits most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect on Wednesday. (Photo by Drew Angerer via AFP)

 

 

 

The US Supreme Court handed a major victory to abortion opponents late Wednesday, denying an emergency request to block a new law effectively banning most abortions in the southern state of Texas.

The court, which had received the emergency request from abortion rights advocates on Monday, did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, which went into effect 24 hours earlier, but cited “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions” for leaving it in place while the court battle continues.

The decision was reached with a narrow majority of five justices in favor, three of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump, who cemented a conservative-leaning 6-3 majority on the nine-member panel during his time in office.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a moderate conservative, like the three liberal justices, indicated that he would have blocked the “unprecedented” law, pending a substantive review.

More bluntly, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the court’s order “stunning,” saying her colleagues had “opted to bury their head in the sand” over a “flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights.”

Senate Bill 8, or SB8, signed in May by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually in the sixth week of pregnancy — before many women even know they are pregnant — and makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

The only exemption is if there is a danger to the woman’s health.

While similar laws have passed in a dozen Republican-led conservative states, all had been stymied in the courts.

The Supreme Court declined to rule on the request from rights groups and abortion providers to block the law by midnight September 1.

 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 01: People make signs as they join others for a reproductive rights rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 01, 2021 in Downtown Brooklyn in New York City. NOW-NYC and Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Action Fund organized a rally for reproductive rights after a Texas law that has been dubbed the “Heartbeat Bill” went into effect.  (Photo by Michael M. Santiago  via AFP)

 

The other states that have sought to enact restrictions on abortion in the early stages of pregnancy have been barred from doing so by rulings that cited protections granted in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legally enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion.

That decision guaranteed the right to an abortion in the US so long as the fetus is not viable outside the womb, which is usually the case until the 22nd to 24th week of pregnancy.

But Texas’ law is different from those of other states because it allows the public — rather than state officials such as prosecutors or health departments — to bring private civil suits to enforce the ban.

For procedural reasons, this provision makes it more difficult for federal courts to intervene, and they have so far refused to take up appeals against the law.

The Supreme Court has now followed suit, while noting that other challenges to the law could be filed, including in state courts.

Texas Governor Signs Law Banning Abortion At Six Weeks

 

 

The governor of Texas on Wednesday signed a bill banning abortion at six weeks, joining a conservative push to change the rules on one of the United States’ most divisive issues.

The law — dubbed the “heartbeat bill” by proponents — makes no exception for rape or incest and will make Texas one of the hardest states in the United States to get an abortion.

It comes just days after the nation’s highest court agreed to hear a case that could challenge a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision enshrining abortion as a legal right.

“This bill ensures the life of every unborn child with a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion,” said Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

At least 10 other Republican-led states have passed similar legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.

All of the bills have been struck down by the courts because they violate Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court ruling which authorized abortion as long as the fetus is not yet able to survive outside of the womb, which happens at 22 to 24 weeks.

But the Supreme Court is due to hear a case that could challenge that decision, involving a Mississippi law that prohibits abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy except in cases of a medical emergency or a severe fetal abnormality.

It will be the first abortion case considered by the Supreme Court since former president Donald Trump cemented a conservative majority on the nine-member panel.

Abortion is a divisive issue in the United States, with strong opposition especially among evangelical Christians.

– ‘Chilling effect’ –
The new Texas law authorizes a private citizen to sue abortion providers or anyone helping someone undergo the procedure.

It has faced opposition from the state’s medical community, with 200 doctors signing an open letter earlier this month urging legislators to reconsider.

“These bills create a chilling effect that might prevent physicians from providing information on all pregnancy options to patients out of fear of being sued,” the letter read.

“The Texas legislature has no right to cause this type of grievous harm to Texas physicians or the people we serve.”

Reproductive rights activists warn that the six-week cut-off point would ban abortion before many women even know they are pregnant.

“For a person with a normal menstrual cycle, that is only two weeks after a missed period,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, describing it as one of the most “extreme in the country”.

“When you factor in the time it takes to confirm a pregnancy, consider your options and make a decision, schedule an appointment and comply with all the restrictions politicians have already put in place for patients and providers, a six-week ban essentially bans abortion outright.”