What to Watch in the Supreme Court Oral Arguments on the Texas Abortion Law
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in two challenges to a Texas law that bars most abortions in the state after six weeks of pregnancy. The justices will consider whether abortion providers in the state and the Biden administration are entitled to challenge the law, which was intended to evade review in federal court.
Next month, in a separate case challenging Mississippi’s 15-week ban, the justices will consider the more fundamental question of whether to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.
The court let the Texas law go into effect on Sept. 1 in a bitterly divided 5-to-4 ruling. Monday’s arguments will give the justices a chance to take another look at whether federal courts have the power to block the law, which has all but eliminated abortions in the state.
Where can I listen?
The New York Times will be streaming the oral arguments and providing live coverage of the proceedings when they begin at 10 a.m. Eastern. The first argument, in the abortion providers’ case, is scheduled to last an hour but will most likely go longer. The second argument, in the challenge brought by the Biden administration, will start soon after the first one concludes. It is also scheduled to last an hour.
What are the key arguments?
Both challengers said the law is at odds with Roe v. Wade, which prohibits states from banning abortions before fetal viability, or around 23 weeks. They urged the justices not to let Texas effectively nullify the right to abortion in the state by authorizing members of the public to sue abortion providers and incentivizing them with a minimum award of $10,000 if they win.
Officials in Texas said that neither the federal government nor the providers were entitled to sue. The right way to challenge the law, they said, was for abortion providers to violate it, be sued in state court, and present constitutional or other arguments as defenses.
Why is this important?
The practical consequences of the court’s ruling may be enormous. Abortion clinics in Texas have been turning away patients seeking the procedure, forcing those with the financial means to do so to travel to other states to obtain abortions.
If the court refuses to block the Texas law, other states led by Republican-controlled legislatures are likely to enact similar ones. And it is possible that states led by Democrats will enact similar laws to limit other constitutional rights, in areas like gun control and campaign finance.
The arguments are also likely to provide hints about where the justices are headed when they consider the fate of Roe itself in next month’s case from Mississippi.
The court’s call for what amounts to a do-over — after allowing the law to go into effect exactly two months ago — suggests that something is afoot among the justices, said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University. “Someone who was not on the fence is probably back on the fence,” she said.
Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who had previously voted to allow the law to proceed, is the most likely candidate to switch sides, legal experts said.