U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments centered on restrictive Texas abortion law

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case centered on a Texas law put into effect two months ago that bans most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The Texas law is the most restrictive abortion law in the country and it’s facing two challenges based on the way the law is written.

It bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected which generally happens around six weeks into a pregnancy.

The law makes exceptions for medical emergencies but has no exception for rape or incest.

At the center of the debate is the unusual part of the law that allows private people from anywhere in the country to sue someone who performs an abortion or assists with abortion in Texas.

The person suing can also collect a bounty of at least $10,000.

“A state is trying to nullify the exercise of a right, a constitutional right that’s been recognized by this court by delegating enforcement to the public,” said Marc Hearron, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “It has incentivized enforcement by offering $10,000 or more bounties effectively and by lowering the barriers of entry for people across the state, by allowing anyone to sue without having to show an injury.”

The Texas Solicitor General defended the state law and argued the federal government and abortion providers do not have the legal power to sue the state because the law doesn’t give state officials the power to enforce it, since the enforcement lies in the hands of private citizens.

“Federal courts don’t issue injunctions against laws but against officials enforcing laws,” said Texas Solicitor General Judd Stone. “Such an injunction would be a violation of the whole scheme of our government.”

Groups of pro-choice and pro-life protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court as arguments were underway.

“I believe everyone should have access to abortion,” said pro-choice protester Sydney Brinker. “I think it’s healthcare. I think it’s essential and I think the Texas law is awful.”

“Through the lens of anti-abortion, we can create safe and sustainable communities for all of our children,” said pro-life protester Lauren Handy. “You shouldn’t have to pick and choose which children should be able to thrive.”

Next month is the major abortion rights case that directly looks to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In that case, the state of Mississippi is urging the high court to rule that there is no constitutional right to an abortion.