The Supreme Court of the United States has given a important victory for the anti-abortion movement by denying suspension, on Wednesday night, of a law in Texas that prohibits termination of pregnancy after six weeks, including in cases of rape or incest.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and other associations had on Monday asked the Supreme Court to suspend law enforcement with an urgent request.
The Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the law, which entered into force 24 hours earlier, but pointed to “complex and new procedural issues”.
The decision was approved by five magistrates out of a total of nine. Three judges were appointed by former President Donald Trump precisely because of their opposition to abortion.
“The Republicans had promised they would put an end to Roe v. Wade and they succeeded,” Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reacted on Twitter, referring to the emblematic Supreme Court decision that in 1973 recognized the right to abortion in the United States while the fetus did not it is viable outside the uterus, which only happens between weeks 22 to 24 of pregnancy.
The Texas law is the most restrictive on abortion that has gone into effect since then.
Controversy about constitutionality
The president of the US main court, John Robert, a moderate conservative, said he was in favor of blocking the “unprecedented” law for deeper analysis.
More eloquently, progressive judge Sonia Sotomayor called the decision “amazing” and accused her colleagues of “hiding their heads underground” in front of a law “imagined to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.”
The law signed in May by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott prohibits abortion as soon as it is possible to detect a fetal heartbeat, which can happen around the sixth week of pregnancy, when most women do not even know they are pregnant. There is only one exception: in case of danger to the woman’s health.
The ACLU has stated that the impact of the law will be “immediate and devastating”. “Access to almost any type of abortion has been cut off for millions of people”, said the association, which calculates that “85 to 90% of people who have an abortion in Texas are pregnant for at least six weeks.”
At the same time, anti-abortion activists celebrated the decision. “It’s a historic moment in the fight to defend women and children from abortion“, said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the NGO Susan B Anthony List.
Other states that have tried to enact restrictions on abortion in early pregnancy have failed because of the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision. Twelve passed laws similar to Texas which were blocked in court for violating Supreme Court jurisprudence.
But the Texas law is different: it is not up to the authorities to enforce the measure, but “exclusively” to the citizens, who are encouraged, thanks to financial compensation, to file civil complaints against organizations or individuals that help women have abortions.
As a matter of procedure, the provisions complicate the intervention of federal courts, which until now had refused to address appeals against this law. The Supreme Court followed suit, but noted that there may be other appeals filed against this law, for example in state courts.
President Joe Biden has criticized the “radical” law that “restricts women’s access to the care and health care they need,” which will especially hurt the most disadvantaged communities, according to the Democrat.
A poll released on Wednesday by NBC channel shows that 54% of respondents believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 42% think it should be illegal.