Biden Calls Texas Abortion Law ‘Extreme’ But Is Silent on Court
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden blasted a Texas law banning most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy that took effect Wednesday in a statement that didn’t mention the Supreme Court, which has not acted on a last-minute legal challenge to the measure.
“This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century,” Biden said in a statement. He did not directly call on the high court to pause the law’s implementation or overturn it.
The court’s inaction before the law took effect set off alarm among abortion advocates, who have interpreted it as a sign that the Republican-appointed majority is poised to uphold further restrictions on abortions.
The Supreme Court is still expected to act on the Texas law, though there is no firm time line. A decision to allow the ban could indicate a readiness by the justices to fulfill a decades-old conservative dream and overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide.
There are now six Republican appointees, including three chosen by Donald Trump, on the court and three justices selected by Democratic presidents.
“My administration is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right,” Biden said.
The justices are set to hear a Mississippi appeal that seeks to overturn Roe and the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling that said a woman’s constitutional right is protected until the fetus becomes viable, sometime after the 20th week of pregnancy. They will consider the case in the nine-month term that starts in October.
A group of Texas abortion providers had on Monday filed an emergency application with the court asking it to block the new law from taking effect. The clinics and doctors challenging the law say it would bar abortions for at least 85% of the women seeking the procedure in Texas.
The Texas law bars abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected and puts clinics at risk of being shut down if they are found to be in violation. The law’s enforcement mechanism is at the center of the legal challenge. It allows private parties to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion and collect a minimum of $10,000 in damages per procedure but doesn’t authorize government officials to sue alleged violators.
“If you disagree with the idea that a complete stranger could, legally, demand $10,000 from you just because they disagree with your personal decisions, you should find this Texas anti-abortion ban as much of a nightmare as I do,” Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the third-ranking Democrat, said in a statement assailing the law.
She called for the Senate to pass legislation protecting a right to abortion. Under the Senate’s current rules, however, any such bill would require 60 votes to defeat a filibuster.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has always called himself pro-life, and just three Senate Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — declined to sign on to amicus briefs this year in the Mississippi case.
While some Democrats, like Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have supported ditching the 60-vote rule to protect abortion and other rights, Manchin and Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema have said repeatedly they favor retaining the filibuster rules.
Another route — expanding the size of the Supreme Court to dilute the conservative majority — doesn’t have much traction in the Senate, either, and would also require changing the filibuster.
The abortion cases, however, could play a significant role in 2022, when every House seat and a third of the Senate is up for election. Democrats will need strong turnout from their supporters to counter Republican voters eager to check Biden’s power; if Roe is overturned, they may benefit from outrage among liberals and independents who support abortion rights.
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