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The Supreme Court allowed Texas to ban most abortions & LGBTQ people are speaking out

Pro-choice activists rally to stop states’ abortion bans in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on May 21, 2019
Pro-choice activists rally to stop states’ abortion bans in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on May 21, 2019 Photo: Shutterstock

The Supreme Court has allowed a draconian ban on most abortions to go into effect in Texas and LGBTQ people are speaking out against it.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed S.B. 8 this past May, which allowed anyone in the state to sue for a $10,000 bounty if they think someone has carried out an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy or even helped in the procurement of an abortion, like an Uber driver who takes a patient to a clinic.

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People often don’t know they’re pregnant before the sixth week – one group estimates that 85% of abortions in Texas occur after the sixth week – and the law violates Supreme Court precedent set in the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that blocks states from banning abortion before the fetus is viable, which happens around the 24th week of pregnancy.

Moreover, the law was written to make it harder to sue to overturn it. The law says that anyone in the state can sue over an abortion to get the bounty… except for state officers. This is because lawsuits challenging a law as unconstitutional are written to nominally target a state office-holder so that the constitutional questions can be brought up before the law goes into effect. But here, there is no state officer who can be sued.

Whole Woman’s Health and other plaintiffs tried suing a Texas judge, since judges will have to preside over the civil lawsuits. The trial court allowed the lawsuit to move forward, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals – which is conservative – ordered the trial court not to take the case.

The Supreme Court refused to act on an emergency request to delay the law while it’s challenged in court in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, meaning that it goes into effect today. Reproductive health clinics that provide abortions in Texas have mostly stopped performing abortions after the sixth week because of the law, although they still might get inundated with lawsuits that are expensive to defend.

The tactic of allowing private residents – and only private residents – to sue to enforce a law so that it’s harder to challenge in court now has the tacit approval of the Supreme Court and could be replicated by other states that want to effectively ban most abortions and even used in other areas.

The rights to control one’s own body, to create a family on one’s own terms, and to have access to health care have all been central to the LGBTQ equality movement, so LGBTQ people are speaking out about the Supreme Court’s actions here and S.B. 8.

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