For the second time in weeks, the Center for Reproductive Rights is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in a case challenging Texas’s extreme abortion ban that has ended almost all abortion access in the state.
The law, S.B. 8, prohibits abortion care after approximately six weeks of pregnancy, before many know they’re pregnant, and incentivizes individuals to seek monetary penalties by suing anyone who provides an abortion or assists someone in obtaining one after the law’s limit. The ban has been in effect since September 1.
Representing a broad coalition of Texas abortion providers—led by Whole Woman’s Health—along with abortion funds, doctors and other organizations, the Center and its co-counsel asked the Court today to intervene in Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Jackson et al. in order to expedite the case.
“We’re asking the Supreme Court for this expedited appeal because the Fifth Circuit has done nothing to change the dire circumstances on the ground in Texas,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center. “We need this case to move as quickly as possible. Right now, patients are being forced to travel hundreds of miles in the middle of a pandemic to find abortion care. But many people can’t afford to do that. We’re doing everything we can to block this ban and restore abortion access in Texas.”
Earlier in the case proceedings, on the evening of September 1, the Supreme Court denied the Center’s emergency appeal to block the law, allowing it to stay in effect.
In today’s action, plaintiffs filed a petition for a “writ of certiorari before judgment,” requesting the Court to hear the appeal challenging the Texas ban on an expedited basis without waiting for a further ruling from the Fifth Circuit, where the case is currently pending.
Texas Ban Causing Extreme Harm to Those Seeking Abortion Care
Clinics in states neighboring Texas have reported significant increases in patients traveling from Texas to seek abortion care since the law took effect. According to one news report, “With abortion effectively banned in Texas, patients are flooding reproductive health clinics in neighboring states and overwhelming the region’s fragile abortion infrastructure.”
Today’s filing with the Court describes the situation in Texas:
“Texans are in crisis. 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. As a result, Texans with means must now travel hundreds of miles each way to other States during a pandemic, just to exercise a clearly established federal right. The surge of Texans seeking out-of-state appointments for this time-sensitive medical care is causing backlogs in those States, delaying abortions by weeks for Texans and non-Texans alike.
Many Texans, however, lack the financial means to travel out of state or are unable to secure childcare or the necessary time off work to do so. . . 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.”
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, a client in the case, commented, “For 23 days, we’ve been forced to deny essential abortion care for the vast majority of patients who come to us. Most of those we’ve turned away told us they would not be able to make it out of Texas for care. I don’t know what happened to these patients after they left our clinics, but I can’t stop thinking about them. Forcing our staff to tell patients ‘no’ day after day is cruel. This chaos must come to an end, and that is why we are going back to the Supreme Court today.”
DOJ and UN Condemn Texas’s Abortion Ban
Texas S.B. 8 has been widely condemned across the country and around the world. On September 9, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Texas, arguing that the ban violates an individual’s constitutional right to an abortion before viability. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland called the law “clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent” and “a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.”
UN human rights experts also condemned the ban as a violation of international law and in a statement called on 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.”