Critics denounce law as unconstitutional and a threat to women’s health
Senator Mazie Hirono: ‘They’re hoping we don’t notice.’ Photograph: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock
The Guardian-Maya Yang
Top Democrats across the country are condemning the US supreme court over its silence on Texas’s latest and most extreme abortion law to date after it came into effect on Wednesday.
The so-called “Heartbeat Act”, which was signed into law by Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor, in May, bans abortions at six weeks and does not make exceptions for incest and rape. Furthermore, it empowers private citizens to sue any abortion provider who violates the law.
Texas is the first state to ban abortion this early in pregnancy since Roe v Wade, and last-minute efforts to halt it through an appeal to the US supreme court by Tuesday did not succeed, as the Guardian reported.
Democrats including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton have criticized the supreme court for not taking up an appeal that would have at least temporarily blocked the law. In a statement released on Wednesday, Biden criticized the law, saying that it “blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century”.
“The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the healthcare they need … And outrageously, it deputizes private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion.”
Hillary Clinton also lambasted the court, saying on Twitter, “Under the cover of darkness, by choosing to do nothing, the supreme court allowed an unconstitutional abortion ban in Texas to go into effect last night.
“Their decision doesn’t change the fact that reproductive rights are human rights. We’ll fight for them,” she added.
The New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who in February revealed that she is a survivor of sexual assault, responded to the law and the supreme court by tweeting a video clip of her speaking against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court in 2018 amid his denials of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor, when she was 15 years old and he was 17.
On Wednesday Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Among many other warnings, survivors warned that sexual assault is about abuse of power, & a judge credibly accused of such shouldn’t be trusted w the rights of the vulnerable.
“Now Roe is upended. But we’re not going anywhere. This is a fight for our lives,” she added.
Joaquín Castro, a congressman from Texas, said on Twitter, “The supreme court allowed the law to go into effect – effectively ending Roe v Wade protections in Texas.” He urged Congress to act, emphasizing that all women have a constitutional right to complete healthcare.
In a statement, Carolyn Maloney, Democratic chair of the House oversight committee, said, “In refusing to intervene last night, the supreme court tipped the scales of justice in favor of one of the most draconian state abortion bans in history.” Maloney accused the court of putting the health and safety of Texans, particularly those with lower income and people of color, in jeopardy.
Similarly, Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii tweeted: “The Court can end abortion rights tonight, without any arguments. They’re hoping we don’t notice.” She added the hashtag “#BansOffOurBodies.”
A preliminary injunction hearing was originally set for 30 August in federal court. However, the largely conservative fifth circuit court of appeals cancelled the hearing on Sunday afternoon and denied the plaintiffs’ request to allow the district court to block the law. Providers then appealed to the US supreme court for emergency relief.
The court failed to act before the law took effect on Wednesday, allowing it to proceed.
As Democrats denounce the supreme court over its silence, the country’s highest court is set to take on a Mississippi abortion ban in its next term, which begins in October. The Mississippi law bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.