UNITED STATES. Texas: U.S. President Joe Biden has launched a “whole-of-government” response to safeguard access to abortions in Texas after the Supreme Court’s decision that bans most abortions.
The law, known as Senate Bill 8, bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy; the time frame before many women even know they are pregnant. The law also has unique enforcement provisions allowing private citizens, rather than state officials, to sue anyone involved with providing an abortion post the six weeks time frame.
Texas’ law, which took effect Wednesday, “unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,” the president said.
The president called the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling overnight “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade” since the decision nearly 50 years ago.
“This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest. And it not only empowers complete strangers to inject themselves into the most private of decisions made by a woman — it actually incentivizes them to do so with the prospect of $10,000 if they win their case,” said Biden.
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The judges said their decision was not based on any conclusion about whether the Texas law was constitutional or not, so it keeps the door open for legal challenges.
One of the liberal Supreme Court judges, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said those justices who had allowed the law to stand had “opted to bury their heads in the sand” over a “flagrantly unconstitutional law”.
Abortion providers in Texas were also looking for ways to challenge the new law, while handling the immediate impact.
“It has been truly devastating,” said Andrea Ferrigno of Whole Woman’s Health.
Patients have been “talking about their despair and how they’ve felt pressured and rushed to make a decision”, she told the BBC.
San Antonio’s Planned Parenthood said it had paused its abortion services “while this plays in the courts”.
Its director of public affairs, Mara Posada, said they were “getting calls and having to either let a person know that they cannot get an abortion after six weeks here in Texas, or if they are early enough in their pregnancy, we are referring them to a provider that is currently providing abortion care under the limits”.