Rome News-Tribune

Texas abortion law is ‘sabotage’ of ensured right, U.S. says

- By Erik Larson

The Biden administra­tion urged a federal appeals court to reinstate a judge’s order blocking Texas’s new ban on most abortions, arguing the strictest such law in the nation flouts more than 200 years of precedent.

The law barring most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant, far exceeds the power granted to state legislatur­es under the Constituti­on, the Justice Department said late Monday in a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

“Texas defends its novel scheme by invoking state sovereignt­y,” the Justice Department said. “But state sovereignt­y does not encompass the authority to defy the Federal Constituti­on.”

The U.S. is fighting to revive a temporary injunction that would block enforcemen­t of the law while the case proceeds. The injunction was granted by a judge on Oct. 6 but then temporaril­y stayed by the appeals court two days later. Texas and the Biden administra­tion are now fighting over whether the court should grant a longer-lasting stay pending appeal.

In arguing to deny the stay and revive the injunction, the Justice Department cited an 1810 Supreme Court ruling by one of the nation’s most influentia­l chief justices, John Marshall, who said the Constituti­on “imposes limits to the legislatur­es of the several states, which none claim a right to pass.”

With its new law, Texas “flouts that principle by blatantly violating constituti­onal rights and severely constraini­ng judicial review

of its unconstitu­tional restrictio­ns,” the Justice Department said.

“Recognizin­g that SB8 contravene­s controllin­g Supreme Court precedent, Texas instead crafted the law to hinder judicial review,” the Justice Department said in Monday’s filing. “If Texas’s scheme is permissibl­e, no constituti­onal right is safe from state-sanctioned sabotage of this kind.”

The Texas law, known as SB-8, has no exceptions for rape or incest. It was drafted to make it difficult to challenge in court by delegating enforcemen­t from the state to individual­s empowered to sue for $10,000 anyone who performs abortions or even helps by, for example, driving a woman to an abortion clinic.

Regional affiliates of Planned Parenthood on Monday night provided the appeals court with a filing describing how the law is already harming women and girls. Many are becoming

desperate as they struggle with pregnancie­s they don’t have the finances or emotional strength to endure.

The filing describes one 16-year-old as unsure whether she can afford to travel out of state to get a legal abortion. The girl’s mother, who also became pregnant as a teen, “knows she is not ready to have a baby,” according to the filing.

Another woman described in the filing, already the mother of a kindergart­ner, became pregnant again just before she ended a relationsh­ip with her child’s “very abusive” father. She wants an abortion because she’s a single working mother receiving no child support who says there’s “no way that I could physically, mentally, emotionall­y go through that again.”

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton didn’t immediatel­y respond to an after-hours request for comment on the federal government’s filing.

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