The U.S. Supreme Court raised the stakes in the politically explosive fight over reproductive rights by agreeing to hear arguments on Nov. 1 on a Texas law that has largely shut down legal abortion in the state. The court won’t directly decide if the law -- which bans almost all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy -- violates Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide. Nor will the justices be addressing whether to overturn its abortion-rights precedents; that’s an issue they will
1. What is the court deciding?
The core issues stem from the law’s
2. Would a ruling against Texas mean abortions could resume?
Probably, though not automatically. A ruling in favor of the abortion providers and Justice Department would let them sue, but it wouldn’t block application of the law. That would require the justices taking the additional step of lifting a federal appeals court order that is currently keeping the law in force. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to do that.
3. What would a ruling in favor of Texas mean?
Other Republican-controlled states could move quickly to put copycat laws in place, targeting abortions and perhaps other constitutionally protected rights. And abortion would remain largely illegal in Texas.
4. How unusual is it for the Supreme Court to take up a case so quickly?
Extremely. The court normally takes months to decide whether to hear an appeal and then allots several more for the parties to file their briefs. By contrast, the arguments Monday will take place only two weeks after the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to intervene. The last case the court heard on such an expedited basis was Bush v. Gore, the
5. Why the rush in this case?
It’s not clear, but here are two possible explanations. First, the justices might want to resolve the Texas case before hearing arguments on Dec. 1 over
6. What does all this mean for Roe v. Wade?
The fate of Mississippi’s law banning abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy may prove far weightier for the future of abortion rights. Upholding that law would mean gutting the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling, which barred states from imposing significant abortion restrictions before fetal viability, a point the court suggested was around 23 or 24 weeks at the time. Mississippi originally asked the court to throw out the viability standard without necessarily overturning Roe. After Justice
The Reference Shelf
- QuickTake explainers on the
Texas lawand the Mississippi law.
- Critics say the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket” is
playing too big a role.
- The Guttmacher Institute’s examination of state battles over abortion.
- Cornell Law School’s primer on Roe v. Wade.
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