Biden Administration Asks US Supreme Court to Block Texas Abortion Law

By Andrew Chung and Lawrence Hurley

October 19, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's administration on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion after a lower court reinstated the Republican-backed measure.

The administration made its request to the Supreme Court seeking to quickly reverse a decision by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to lift a judge's order blocking the law while litigation over the matter continues.

The Justice Department told the justices in a filing that the 5th Circuit's action "enables Texas's ongoing nullification of this court's precedents and its citizens' constitutional rights."

The filing also said that "given the importance and urgency of the issues" involved the Supreme Court could decide to take up and hear arguments in the case even before lower courts have issued their own final rulings.

The Texas measure, one of a series of restrictive abortion laws passed at the state level in recent years, bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, a point when many women do not even realize they are pregnant.

The justices on Sept. 1 in a late-night 5-4 decision allowed the law to go into effect.

The Texas measure makes an exception for a documented medical emergency but not for cases of rape or incest. It also gives private citizens the power to enforce it by enabling them to sue anyone who performs or assists a woman in getting an abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the embryo. That feature has helped shield the law from being immediately blocked by making it more difficult to directly sue the state.

Critics of the law have said this provision lets people act as anti-abortion bounty hunters, a characterization its proponents reject.

The Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

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