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Texas Supreme Court Unfreezes Trigger Law Banning Abortion

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The Texas Supreme Court has issued a ruling regarding the state’s nearly century-old abortion “trigger” law.

The state high court has overturned a lower court’s decision that put the law on hold following last week’s overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, a ruling that then allowed the Texas ban to take effect.

“The decision was the latest in a series of legal battles across the country following the Supreme Court ruling on June 24 that overturned Roe v. Wade, a half-century-old ruling that had established a nationwide constitutional right to an abortion,” The New York Times reported.

The paper adds:

In Texas, that meant a 1925 law written before Roe, which had banned abortions and punished those who performed them with possible imprisonment, automatically came into effect, said Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general. Though not enforced after the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe, it had nevertheless remained on the books.

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That ban was temporarily blocked by a Harris County judge after abortion clinics sued for a stay, arguing that it had effectively been repealed after the landmark Roe ruling.

Paxton tweeted Saturday morning that the high court’s ruling was a “pro-life victory.”

“Our state’s pre-Roe statutes banning abortion in Texas are 100% good law. Litigation continues, but I’ll keep winning for Texas’ unborn babies,” he said in a tweet containing a screengrab of the court’s decision.

The Texas Supreme Court’s Friday decision partially overrules the lower court’s decision. Both sides will continue to argue their case involving the nearly 100-year-old law on July 12 in front of the Harris County district court.

By lifting the freeze, the higher court did not allow for criminal enforcement of the ban, the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing abortion clinics in the legal battle, said in a press release.

“Extremist politicians are on a crusade to force Texans into pregnancy and childbirth against their will, no matter how devastating the consequences,” said Julia Kaye, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

“Even before the overturning of Roe, a law passed last year in Texas had allowed abortions only up to about six weeks of pregnancy. And when the Roe decision was overturned, a “trigger ban” was activated that will ban all abortions in Texas from the moment of fertilization, with rare exceptions including to save the life of the mother. That law goes into effect at the end of July,” The Times added.

The Lone Star State is one of several others where pro-abortion groups have quickly launched lawsuits to block trigger laws or at least delay them. Those efforts had succeeded in Utah, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Florida by Friday.

The nation’s highest court decided to overturn ‘Roe,’ the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, last week.

Also Friday, a frustrated President Joe Biden called out two U.S. senators, both fellow Democrats, over their steadfast refusal to back efforts by their party to ditch the chamber’s filibuster rule in order to move key legislation that would codify ‘Roe’ in federal law.

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Biden made his remarks ahead of a meeting on Friday with Democratic governors regarding ways to improve abortion access.

The president was referencing Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both of whom have repeatedly refused to blow up the filibuster, a rule that requires a 60-vote majority in order to move most legislation forward. The rule has been in place throughout most of the country’s history; it was put in place to give the minority party some leverage to control the legislative agenda.

“Congress is going to have to act to codify Roe into federal law. As I said yesterday, the filibuster should not stand in the way of our ability to do that,” Biden said Friday.

“But right now, we do not have the votes in the Senate to change the filibuster at the moment. That means we need two more votes now. Well not now, when we vote, probably after November,” he added.

“More senators and a House majority [were] elected in November to get this bill to my desk. So the choice is clear: we either elect federal senators and representatives who will codify Roe, or Republicans will elect the House and Senate and will try to ban abortions nationwide,” he claimed. “Nationwide. This is going to go one way or the other after November.”

Republican lawmakers have not come out in support of a nationwide ban; most appear to be content with the Supreme Court’s ruling returning the issue to individual states for their residents to decide.

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