By Melissa Murray
It seems like a million years ago that, in the small hours before the clock struck midnight on September 2, the United States Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 to allow Texas SB 8 to go into effect, effectively curbing abortion access for millions of Texans. On Monday, November 1, exactly two months after Texans awoke to fewer constitutional rights than their counterparts throughout the country, SB 8 was back before the high court. Last time, the Court resolved the dispute over SB 8 in just a paragraph. On Monday, however, they seemed prepared to spend some time on the law, devoting roughly two hours of oral argument to two challenges–one brought by abortion providers against the Texas state court judges and county clerks who process and dispose of lawsuits under the law and another brought by the United States against Texas. If you did not catch this two-hour SCOTUS extravaganza, fear not. I listened so you wouldn’t have to! Here’s a recap of what went down at 1 First Street!
As a quick reminder, SB 8 bans abortion at just six weeks of pregnancy, when many pregnant people do not even realize that they are pregnant. But its limited window for securing an abortion is just one way in which SB 8 pushes the envelope. More troublingly, the law, by design, completely cuts the state out of its enforcement scheme, instead delegating responsibility for enforcing the law to private citizens who may sue anyone who provides an abortion or assists someone in securing or providing an abortion. The law’s unusual enforcement mechanism was purposely crafted to insulate the law from federal court review—and the certainty of an injunction that would have blocked the law from going into effect.