This past week saw two developments in relation to S.B. 8, the Texas law that prohibits abortion care after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant. The law also incentivizes individuals—including anti-abortion activists—to seek monetary penalties by suing anyone who provides abortion care or assists someone in obtaining an abortion.
The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit on September 9 against the state of Texas, arguing that the ban violates an individual’s constitutional right to an abortion before viability, which usually happens around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“The Act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.”
In response to the Department of Justice lawsuit, on September 15, the district court judge set a preliminary injunction hearing for October 1—meaning an injunction against the law might not be issued by the court for another two weeks.
Human rights experts at the United Nations issued a statement condemning the Texas abortion ban, naming it a violation of international law.
“We urge relevant judicial authorities to halt the implementation of this law which violates women’s fundamental human rights and generates a climate of stigma and fear through the provision which deputizes its enforcement to private parties and may potentially incite violence against those who aid or facilitate the access of a pregnant woman to abortion” the experts said in the September 14 statement.
Calling the ban “alarming,” the UN experts added, “The law will have a particularly devastating impact on women from marginalised communities. . . Women with low incomes, women living in rural areas, and women from racial and ethnic minorities as well as immigrant women will be disproportionately affected by this ban.” The experts urged the “Government to prevent retrogression in access to abortion in the United States and instead enact positive measures to ensure access to safe and legal abortion.”
The Texas ban took effect September 1; later that day the U.S. Supreme Court refused the Center’s request to block the law. Since approximately 85 – 90 percent of abortions in Texas occur after six weeks, the ban has effectively ended almost all abortion care in the state.
- Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Jackson et al., the Center’s case challenging the abortion ban.
- Justice Department Sues Texas Over Senate Bill 8, 09.09.21
- United States: UN experts denounce further attacks against right to safe abortion and Supreme Court complicity, 09.14.21