Speed of Texas abortion cases has few high court precedents

Oct 29, 2021, 9:06 AM | Updated: Oct 30, 2021, 11:45 am
FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2021 photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. In only a handful of c...

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2021 photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington. In only a handful of cases has the Supreme Court moved as quickly as it is in the fight over the Texas law that bans most abortions. They include some of the most famous disputes of the last 50 years. The cases being argued Monday could signal how the justices will rule in an even bigger abortion case that will be heard a month later and asks them to overrule landmark cases that guarantee a woman's right to an abortion. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In only a handful of cases has the Supreme Court, where decorative turtles symbolize the deliberate pace of justice, moved as quickly as it is in the fight over the Texas law that bans most abortions. They include some of the most famous disputes of the last 50 years.

The cases being argued Monday could signal how the justices will rule in an even bigger abortion case that will be heard a month later and asks them to overrule the two landmark cases that guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion, Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

But abortion is not directly at issue in the Texas cases. Rather, the court will decide whether abortion providers or the federal government can sue in federal court over the Texas law, which has an enforcement mechanism that Chief Justice John Roberts has described as “unusual, if not unprecedented.”

The high court has so far allowed the Texas law, which effectively bans abortion at around six weeks of pregnancy, to be in effect even as it appears to conflict with the Roe and Casey decisions. Those cases remain the law of the land until the Supreme Court says otherwise.

___

WHO CAN SUE, BE SUED?

The Texas law bans abortion once cardiac activity is detected in the fetus, usually around six weeks and before some women even know they are pregnant.

Federal courts have had no trouble blocking similar laws enacted elsewhere as inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion that essentially don’t let states prohibit abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks.

The difference in Texas is the way the law is enforced. Rather than let state officials enforce it, as typically happens, Texas puts the power in the hands of private citizens, who can sue anyone who performs or abets an abortion. The pregnant woman herself cannot be sued.

Texas legislators have said that they designed the law this way precisely to make it hard to challenge in federal court.

Abortion providers first sued to block the law before it took effect, but they were rebuffed by a federal appeals court and ultimately the Supreme Court.

The Justice Department then stepped in with a new lawsuit. A federal judge blocked the law, agreeing with the substance of the new suit, but the appeals court put the law back in place after just 48 hours.

When the Biden administration asked the court to block the law, the justices put off a decision but agreed to decide whether, at this early stage of the court fight, either providers or the federal government could sue in federal court to stop a law that the administration argues has “made abortion effectively unavailable in Texas after roughly six weeks of pregnancy.”

The decision on enforcement, the state and an architect of the law say in court papers, means that federal courts are effectively closed to the law’s challengers at this point. The issues also include whom to sue and whether federal courts have the power to compel state judges to follow their orders.

In neither case is the constitutionality of the law directly at issue, but the motivation for both lawsuits is that the Texas ban conflicts with Roe and Casey.

___

EXPRESS LANE

The Texas cases join Bush v. Gore, the Watergate tapes and Pentagon Papers cases, and just a few others that were heard and decided by the justices under a tight timeline that compressed months of briefings and arguments into weeks, and in some cases, days.

In those situations, hard deadlines loomed or the fate of a presidency hung in the balance.

It’s not clear why the court is acting so quickly now. The justices, by a 5-4 vote, rejected an early plea to block the law before it took effect in September.

The conservative majority’s one-paragraph opinion last month cited “novel and complex” procedural questions that the court usually leaves to lower courts to sort through before it steps in.

Polls conducted after the court’s Texas abortion vote showed sharp drops in approval of the court. At around the same time, several justices made public pleas that they not be viewed as partisan politicians.

It’s possible that the decision to grant full review to the Texas cases and, presumably, issue a reasoned opinion is aimed at addressing these concerns.

Then too, the court might want to have the Texas cases squared away before arguments on Dec. 1 in a case from Mississippi that could dramatically change abortion rights in the United States.

The justices have not offered an explanation for their actions. It remains to be seen how quickly the court will issue a decision.

___

PRIOR EXPERIENCE

Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer are the only two justices who were members of the court during Bush v. Gore, which effectively settled the 2000 presidential election in favor of Republican George W. Bush. Thomas was part of the majority, and Breyer dissented.

Roberts was a law clerk to Justice William Rehnquist in 1981, when the court moved quickly to decide a case that was related to the release of the American hostages in Iran. Faced with a deadline for the U.S. to transfer previously blocked assets to the Iranians, the court acted in less than a month to grant, hear and decide the case. Rehnquist wrote the court’s opinion, which was issued eight days after arguments.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Bosnian man casts his vote at a poling station in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. Polls ope...
Associated Press

Voting begins in Bosnia election, little expected to change

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Polls opened Sunday in Bosnia for a general election that is unlikely to bring any structural change despite palpable disappointment in the small, ethnically divided Balkan country with the long-established cast of sectarian political leaders. The election includes races for various levels of government that are part of one of the […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Vehicle overturn kills 26, injures 10 in India

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — A farm tractor pulling a wagon loaded with people overturned and fell into a pond in northern India, killing 26 people, most of them women and children, officials said Sunday. Superintendent of Police Tej Swaroop Singh said the wagon was carrying around 40 people returning from a ceremony at a nearby […]
23 hours ago
Women walk past election campaign posters in Kyustendil, Bulgaria, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022. Bulgar...
Associated Press

Bulgarians hold 4th election in 18 months amid turmoil

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarians on Sunday cast their ballots in a general election — the fourth in 18 months — marked by a raging war nearby, political instability, and economic hardships in the European Union’s poorest member. Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT). First exit poll results will be announced after polls […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Liu Qiangdong, also known as Richard Liu, CEO of JD.com, raises his arms to celebrate the IP...
Associated Press

Chinese billionaire Richard Liu settles US rape allegation

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Chinese billionaire and JD.com founder Richard Liu agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a former University of Minnesota student who alleged he raped her in her Minneapolis apartment after a night of dinner and drinks with wealthy Chinese executives in 2018, attorneys for both sides announced late Saturday. A settlement amount […]
23 hours ago
This satellite image taken at 20:20 UTC and provided by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Orlene on Saturda...
Associated Press

Hurricane Orlene heads for Mexico’s former prison islands

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Hurricane Orlene rapidly strengthened as it swirls toward Mexico’s northwest Pacific coast, with a likely close brush with former prison islands being developed by the government as an ecotourism destination. After growing into a hurricane Saturday, Orlene quickly added power, and its maximum sustained winds were up to 110 mph (175 […]
23 hours ago
Electoral workers move electronic voting machine boxes at a distribution center in Rio de Janeiro, ...
Associated Press

Brazil holds historic election with Lula against Bolsonaro

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — More than 120 million Brazilians will vote Sunday in a highly polarized election that could determine if the country returns a leftist to the helm of the world’s fourth-largest democracy or keeps the far-right incumbent in office for another four years. With polls opening at 8 a.m. Brasilia time, the […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Speed of Texas abortion cases has few high court precedents