On Monday, November 1st the US Supreme Court will consider two different requests around the Texas abortion ban (SB 8). This hearing is happening exactly one month before they hear arguments in a case challenging the Mississippi 15 week ban on abortion. Briefs have been filed asking for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.
Background: For nearly two months, SB 8 has forced people to either travel hundreds of miles out of state to access their constitutional right or carry pregnancies to term against their will. Health centers in Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and other states are working hard to meet the needs of patients forced to travel from Texas.
This makes it clear that banning abortion doesn’t stop the need for it, and patients who have the means to do so will be able to get care by traveling. That means that young people, low-income Texas and people of color are disparately impacted by this harmful policy.
Every day SB 8 is in place is one more day of taking away bodily autonomy and putting people in tough situations. Texas abortion providers, local abortion funds and other advocates have been working hard to meet the needs of Texans who need abortions while continuing to push for the court to take action!
On Friday, October 22nd, the Supreme Court announced that they will hear oral arguments on Monday, November 1st for two different cases challenging the Texas law.
Here is an overview of the upcoming arguments:
- The court granted requests by the Biden administration. United States v. Texas was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Earlier this month, a federal district court granted the DOJ’s request to temporarily block the law, but an appellate court let the law take effect again less than 48 hours later. The Supreme Court will decide whether to block the law again and whether the DOJ has the authority to bring this case.
- The Biden administration had asked the court to block enforcement of S.B. 8 while the litigation proceeds, but the justices “deferred” that request “pending oral argument,” meaning the law will remain in place until at least the November 1st hearings.
- They will also hear arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, a case filed by a broad coalition of plaintiffs, including Texas abortion providers, abortion funds, and doctors. In this case, the Supreme Court will decide whether federal courts have the power to block Texas’ abortion ban. The ban was specifically designed to evade court review.
- In August, plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to block the ban before it took effect on Sept. 1, but the court refused, citing “complex and novel” procedural questions about whether it has the authority to do so. The order issued on Friday means that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on those procedural questions.
- The two orders suggest that the court will not directly weigh in on whether the Texas law, known as S.B. 8, violates the constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Instead, the case brought by the Biden administration will consider whether the federal government has the right to sue in federal court to block the law’s enforcement and the case brought by the abortion providers will assess the law’s unusual private-enforcement structure allowing individuals to bring lawsuits against a broad range of people, including doctors and health center staff, groups who provide financial assistance, a friend who gives someone a ride, and a member of the clergy who assists an abortion patient in considering their options.
While it is important that these requests be heard, it is unbelievable that the Supreme Court has allowed this blatantly unconstitutional law and terribly harmful law to remain in place. The requests had specifically asked for the law to be blocked while it was under review. We urge the court to halt enforcement as they consider the requests.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
- The November hearings are not the only threat to abortion in the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether bans on abortion before viability are unconstitutional in a case in which the state of Mississippi is pushing to overturn Roe v. Wade.
- If Roe falls, half the states in the country are poised to ban abortion entirely, leaving even more people across large swaths of the South and Midwest without access to care. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be heard exactly one month later on December 1st.
- The district court that considered the Mississippi ban struck it down saying that it was clear that this is a matter of racial justice and gender equality, saying that ban is “closer to the old Mississippi” that was intent on controlling women’s bodies and with a history of forced sterilization of Black women.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the constitutional right to abortion, including just last year in June Medical Services v. Russo looking at a Louisiana state law that would have closed half the clinics in our state by enforcing medically unnecessary restrictions designed to push care out of reach. The only thing that has changed since then is the composition of the Court.
The only outcome consistent with the rule of law is for the Supreme Court to strike down Mississippi’s abortion ban. We need to raise our voices and make that clear. We should be shouting from the rooftops that for nearly 50 years, the Court has affirmed over and over again that the Constitution guarantees the right to abortion. Every argument Mississippi makes for overturning Roe has been considered and rejected by the Supreme Court before. Precedent requires that the Supreme Court strike down the ban and affirm our rights! It is a pivotal moment for the Supreme Court to demonstrate that it decides cases based on precedent and rule of law, not politics or ideology.
But this is not the end of this fight. For too many people, abortion is already a right in name only because of barriers to access. That’s especially true for Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, especially in the South and Midwest.
- We need the Senate to take up and pass the Women’s Health Protection Act as soon as possible, and for all lawmakers at all levels of government to ensure everyone can make their own health care decisions without political interference.
- We are proud that in Rhode Island the right to abortion is protected under law. The passage of the Reproductive Privacy Act affirmed the right, but we also need to ensure real access. Coverage bans, forced waiting periods for immigrants, and the patchwork of limitations on the ability of low-income people to get care they need to plan and care for their families need to go.
- We urge Congress to advance the EACH Woman Act and for states to not only get rid of their bans on health coverage for abortion, but work to close gaps in the ability to get the care we need whether we choose adoption, seek abortion or become parents.
- Governor McKee needs to introduce a FY 23 budget without restrictions on coverage for state employees and the state Medicaid program. The Womxn Project led a call to action around the FY 22 budget, but it was introduced with the dangerous restrictions in place. We need better from our state’s leaders!
- We are speaking out to push the Rhode Island General Assembly to pass the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act, which would get rid of bans on health coverage for abortion for state employees and people who use Medicaid to get their care. This would prevent future budgets from including the insulting limits on healthcare.
- We also must address the very specific obstacles to abortion that have been put up for young people and people who are incarcerated. Protecting our rights means making those rights real without judgment and without barriers. The Womxn Project is committed to building support to ensure that the full range of reproductive healthcare is available to people in local jails and state prisons or detention centers. We should not put people in a position where the state holds them and denies basic healthcare and dignity. We must also be real about the incredible harm caused by the law we have on the books that forces young people to involve a parent. It pushes care out of reach for many Rhode Islanders.
The Womxn Project and our partners and activists will continue to speak out to urge the court to do the right thing, but are also working to educate, organize, advocate and mobilize right here are home. We are all healthier and our communities are stronger when we each get to manage our health and control our bodies – and when we all get to do so with dignity. Having limits imposed on our decisions and our healthcare takes away those most powerful and profound rights