SCOTUS Asked to Weigh in On Texas Abortion Law by DOJ After Appeals Court Defeat

The Biden administration said on Friday that it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block a controversial Texas abortion law enacted in September that effectively bans the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, the Associated Press reported.

The move comes after an appeals court declined to bar the law, known as Senate Bill 8. Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said that the federal government plans to ask SCOTUS to overturn the decision, the AP reported.

The Biden administration has faced increasing pressure from pro-abortion rights advocates and politicians to look to the Supreme Court as Texas clinics and residents run out of options to bar the restrictive law, the biggest curb on abortion access in nearly 50 years. A federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled 2-1 Thursday to allow Texas' restrictive law to stay in place, the third failed bid to have the legislation struck down in the last several weeks, the AP reported.

The Supreme Court ruled in September to allow the Texas law to take effect, but the high court has yet to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of the law.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Texas Abortion Law Protest
The Biden administration said on Friday that it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block a controversial Texas abortion law enacted in September that effectively bans the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy. Women rights activists gather in front of the supreme court after a rally at freedom plaza for the annual Women’s March October 2, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Since the law took effect Sept. 1, Texas women have sought out abortion clinics in neighboring states, some driving hours through the middle of the night and including patients as young as 12 years old. The law makes no exception for cases of rape or incest.

The Texas Attorney General's Office called the decision Thursday night by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a "testament that we are on the right side of the law and life."

A 1992 decision by the Supreme Court prevented states from banning abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy. But Texas' version has outmaneuvered courts so far due to the fact that it offloads enforcement to private citizens. Anyone who brings a successful lawsuit against an abortion provider for violating the law is entitled to claim at least $10,000 in damages, which the Biden administration says amounts to a bounty.

Only once has a court moved to put the restrictions on hold — and that order only stood for 48 hours.

During that brief window, some Texas clinics rushed to perform abortions on patients past six weeks, but many more appointments were canceled after the 5th Circuit moved to swiftly reinstate the law last week.

Texas had roughly two dozen abortion clinics before the law took effect, and operators have said some may be forced to close if the restrictions stay in place for much longer.

Already the stakes are high in the coming months over the future of abortion rights in the U.S. In December, the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court will hear Mississippi's bid to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that guarantees a woman's right to an abortion.

Texas Right to Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, set up a tip line to receive allegations against abortion providers but has not filed any lawsuits. Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman, said Thursday the group expected the Biden administration to go to the Supreme Court next and was "confident Texas will ultimately defeat these attacks on our life-saving efforts."

On Wednesday, 18 state attorneys generals from mostly GOP-controlled states threw new support behind the Texas law, urging the court to let the restrictions stand while accusing the federal government of overstepping in bringing the challenge in the first place. Last month, more than 20 other states, mostly run by Democrats, had urged the lower court to throw out the law.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has called the law "clearly unconstitutional" and warned that it could become a model elsewhere in the country unless it's struck down.

U.S. Supreme Court
The Biden administration will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to halt a restrictive Texas abortion law, though the court already allowed the legislation to go into effect in September. The Supreme Court is seen on October 5, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images