The White House is searching for legal avenues to crack down on Texas after legislation banning most abortions after six weeks went into effect on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden issued a statement on Thursday after the Supreme Court rejected a petition from abortion providers to stay the law. Biden slammed the court’s decision as an “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights.”
Texas implemented what is known as a “heartbeat” bill on September 1, banning most abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in an unborn child, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy. While other states have passed similar legislation, Texas’ law is the first to be implemented and avoid a stay from a court.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling overnight is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost fifty years,” Biden said in a statement. “While the Chief Justice was clear to stress that the action by the Supreme Court is not a final ruling on the future of Roe, the impact of last night’s decision will be immediate and requires an immediate response.”
“One reason I became the first president in history to create a Gender Policy Council was to be prepared to react to such assaults on women’s rights,” he continued. “Hence, I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”
The Supreme Court was careful not to weigh in on the constitutionality of the Texas law, deciding its ruling on procedural grounds. The Texas law contains a unique enforcement mechanism that authorizes private citizens to sue abortion providers and those who “aid and abet” illegal abortions. As The Daily Wire reported:
The court dismissed the request, which names every state court judge and clerk as defendants, based on procedural grounds.
“It is unclear whether the named defendants in this lawsuit can or will seek to enforce the Texas law against the applicants in a manner that might permit our intervention,” the ruling states. “The State has represented that neither it nor its executive employees possess the authority to enforce the Texas law either directly or indirectly. Nor is it clear whether, under existing precedent, this Court can issue an injunction against state judges asked to decide a lawsuit under Texas’s law.”
The court was also careful not to suggest it had made a decision on the constitutionality of the law.
“In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,” the opinion states.
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