Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in DOJ’s challenge to Texas abortion ban

With the stroke of a pen, the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to impact hundreds of millions of people — present and future — by green-lighting abortion procedures nationwide. But not if Texas can help it.

Reuters reports that the state of Texas “on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to keep in place a law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion.” The move comes amid a legal challenge against the measure launched by President Joe Biden’s Justice Department.

In his legal filing, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also asked the high court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that unilaterally legalized abortion across the U.S. “Properly understood, the Constitution does not protect a right to elective abortion,” Paxton argued, according to Reuters.

The attorney general also said in his filing that the law protects “Texas’ interest in protecting unborn life, which exists from the outset of pregnancy.”

“The right to life”

As it stands, the law out of the Lone Star State, known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, serves to ban abortions there past the point at which a heartbeat can be detected in the fetus, or as early as about six weeks of pregnancy.

Though the law has been met with controversy and was swiftly challenged in the courts, Republicans in Texas including Gov. Greg Abbott have heralded the measure as one that helps ensure “the right to life.”

But challengers of the bill, which Reuters said is “one of a series of restrictive Republican-backed abortion laws passed at the state level in recent years,” have argued that it violates Roe v. Wade by putting an undue burden on women seeking abortions.

The conservative-majority Supreme Court previously declined to block the Heartbeat Act from going into effect, as Reuters notes. In an Oct. 6 ruling, however, an Austin-based federal judge took that step, saying he would “not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.” The law first went into effect Sept. 1.

DOJ targets Texas law

In the latest suit, the Biden Justice Department claims the law is unconstitutional and, in Reuters’ words, “explicitly designed to evade judicial review” by putting the onus on private citizens to enforce it.

“The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the lawsuit, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Reports indicate that oral arguments in the case have been scheduled for Nov. 1.

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