The extreme abortion restrictions currently in effect in Texas are being challenged in a case that will come before the U.S. Supreme Court next week.
The law, which bans abortions in all circumstances once a heartbeat is detected, is currently in effect in the Lone Star State. Colloquially known as the “heartbeat bill,” the abortion ban was approved by the Texas legislature earlier this fall and went into effect Sept. 1. The extreme restrictions in the law effectively ban all abortions in the state, since an embryo’s cardiac activity can be detected as early as six weeks of pregnancy––before many women even know they are pregnant.
The law was met with immediate outrage as it blatantly infringes on the rights guaranteed in the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade case, which ruled abortion access is a Constitutionally protected right. Similar laws and other attempts to restrict abortion access have been passed in many states over the past decade, but the harshest laws as well as heartbeat bills have been typically thrown out by the courts.
In the case of Texas, the situation is different because the law is still standing after the highest court shockingly refused to abortion providers’ request to halt it. The Supreme Court agreed to review two cases related to Texas’ restrictive abortion law, which was approved in Senate Bill 8. The two cases are known as Whole Woman's Health v. Jackson and United States v. Texas. The Department of Justice has asked the Supreme Court to block the law, and the court will review if Justice has that ability.
For roughly two months, women in the state have been impacted by this law, and the longer the law stays in effect, more harm will come to women. There are several reports of “abortion refugees” traveling to states as far as Colorado, Kansas and Arkansas to receive abortion care.
At the same time, the Supreme Court is only about one month away from another case about abortion rights that has activists and pro-choice groups fighting back. That case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, involves a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. The case is a direct threat to Roe. Should the case be overturned, roughly half of states have abortion restriction bills that would come into effect.
“In the Jackson Women’s Health Organization case centering on the Mississippi abortion ban, the Court has the opportunity to take a significant step toward doing just that by ending the constitutional right to abortion as we know it,” non-profit NARAL Pro-Choice America said this week. “We may not know until summer 2022 what the Supreme Court has decided in Jackson Women’s Health, but we must not lose sight of what’s at stake—especially with 24 states poised to ban abortion if Roe falls.”