America Is Back Fighting Its Endless Legal War Over Abortion

Behind a Texas law that has confounded legal scholars and given abortion opponents hope is a publicity-shy, 45-year-old West Coast litigator known for his command of abstruse legal theory.

The Texas Heartbeat Act has survived a brush with the Supreme Court and made Texas the most restrictive in the nation for abortion access, thanks largely to its unusual enforcement scheme. The law puts ordinary Texans—not any government official—in charge of enforcing a prohibition on performing or aiding abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, making it more difficult to challenge in court.

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A divided Supreme Court late on Wednesday allowed the nation’s toughest restrictions on abortions to take effect, declining to block a new Texas law that bars the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The court’s nighttime order, which rejected an emergency request by clinics and abortion-rights advocates, marks a turning point in the legal battle over abortion rights and comes the day the Texas ban went into force. While not a final ruling on the measure’s constitutionality, the court’s action validates, at least temporarily, a novel attempt by Texas lawmakers to insulate antiabortion legislation from court challenge.

A new front opened late Wednesday when five Justices issued an unsigned opinion declining to block a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks. bans off our bodies Cue the hysterics about the end of abortion rights. But this law is a misfire even if you oppose abortion, and neither side should be confident the law will be upheld.

Without interference from the U.S. Supreme Court before midnight Tuesday, abortions past the six-week mark are now barred in the nation’s second-most populous state, and private citizens can file civil lawsuits to enforce the new law. It is possible the high court might still intervene. But the state law, enacted in May and effective Sept. 1, has left clinic directors, doctors and abortion-rights advocates adapting to new measures and offering guidance for patients who suddenly are no longer eligible to receive an abortion.

The Republican-backed law allows any Texas citizen to sue physicians or anyone who aids in or abets an abortion for up to $10,000, if a heartbeat was detected in the womb at the time of the abortion.

The U.S. Supreme Court had until midnight on Tuesday to act on an emergency request by clinics and abortion advocacy groups. With the high court’s inaction, the law went into effect — making it the most restrictive law in the nation.

Because the abortion ban is so early in a pregnancy, it conflicts with current Supreme Court precedent, which prevents states from banning the procedure before the fetus is viable — meaning, its ability to live outside the mother’s womb. The high court could still take action soon.

A group of abortion advocates held a protest called “Bans Off Our Bodies” at the Texas Capitol at noon on Wednesday.

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