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Restrictive Texas Abortion Law Takes Effect as Supreme Court Makes No Move to Block It

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Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • A Texas law banning most abortions went into effect Wednesday after the Supreme Court did not respond to an emergency appeal to block its enforcement.
  • Abortion-rights advocates had asked the Supreme Court to temporarily block the enforcement of the law, which would ban most abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy.
  • Their emergency appeal for an injunction was directed to conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who handles requests from the circuit that covers Texas.
  • Petitioners say the law would essentially overturn the precedent set by Roe v. Wade.

A Texas law banning most abortions went into effect Wednesday after the Supreme Court did not respond to an emergency appeal to block its enforcement.

The top court is still expected to weigh in.

The "heartbeat" law bars most abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy — when many women still have yet to discover they are pregnant — and allows private citizens to file civil lawsuits against abortion providers.

The law took effect after midnight in Texas. A group of abortion providers and advocates including Planned Parenthood filed an emergency request Monday for the Supreme Court to block implementation of the law, but as of Wednesday afternoon the court had yet to weigh in.

Those petitioners said the law would essentially overturn the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that enshrined the right for women to choose to have an abortion.

In response, a group of Texas officials including Attorney General Ken Paxton urged the high court to deny their opponents' bid to thwart the law, calling the request "audacious."

President Joe Biden in a statement Wednesday blasted the "extreme" law, saying 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 health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes," Biden's statement said.

He added that his administration "will protect and defend" the rights established under Roe.

S.B. 8 was signed into law in May by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. It prohibits doctors from performing or inducing abortions if they have "detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child," except in medical emergencies.

The law prohibits state officials from enforcing those rules. Rather, it empowers any individual to file civil lawsuits against anyone who provides abortions or "aids or abets" them after the detection of a heartbeat.

Those lawsuits can yield at least $10,000 in "statutory damages" per abortion.

If allowed to take effect, the law "would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas, barring care for at least 85% of Texas abortion patients" and likely forcing many providers to close down, said the abortion-rights advocates in Monday's request for an injunction.

That application was filed directly to conservative Justice Samuel Alito, who handles requests from the Lone Star State. It was submitted days after a lower appeals court refused to block the implementation of the law.

Alito had asked the respondents to respond to the appeal by Tuesday at 5 p.m. ET.

"In less than two days, Texas politicians will have effectively overturned Roe v. Wade," Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northup, whose organization helped file the Supreme Court request, said in a statement Monday.

The Supreme Court, which in the wake of former President Donald Trump's administration comprises a 6-3 conservative majority, is already scheduled to hear arguments in a potentially pivotal abortion case from Mississippi.

That state has asked the justices to reconsider existing precedent that stops states from banning abortions that occur prior to fetal viability.

This is developing news. Please check back for updates.

— CNBC's Christine Wang contributed to this report.

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