Law & the Courts

Biden Administration Asks Supreme Court to Block Texas Heartbeat Law

Abortion supporters and pro-life advocates demonstrate on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Washington, D.C., January 24, 2011. (Jim Young/Reuters)

After weeks of legal battles over a recently enacted Texas law that prohibits abortions once a heartbeat is detected, the Biden Administration has asked that the Supreme Court block its enforcement.

The development comes after the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law, allowing it to go back into effect. In a court filing Monday, the Acting Solicitor General requested an emergency order vacating the stay.

The stay came after U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted the Biden administration’s plea to temporarily halt enforcement of the abortion ban in early October, stating “this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”

Per the law’s enforcement mechanism, any private citizen can sue a medical practitioner or individual who performs or aids in a woman securing an abortion in the state of Texas.

The complainants argued that the Texas measure violated Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion on a national level, and related decisions, in which the Supreme Court held that “a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.”

The Texas law “defies those precedents by banning abortion long before viability — indeed, before many women even realize they are pregnant,” it read.

After dismissing the opportunity to review the Texas Heartbeat Act, thereby permitting it to go into effect, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a major challenge to Roe v. Wade in the upcoming term. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, on the fall docket, concerns Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act,  which only allows abortion exceptions in cases of medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality, otherwise prohibiting them after 15 weeks of gestation.

In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s hearing of Dobbs, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently mobilized the House to vote to codify Roe and “enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.”

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