Biden says Supreme Court refusal to block Texas anti-abortion law ‘unleashes constitutional chaos’

Joe biden
U.S. President Joe Biden pauses while giving remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House August 16, 2021. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
  • President Joe Biden slammed the Supreme Court for keeping a Texas abortion law in place.
  • The law is one of the most restrictive in the country, banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
  • Biden called the Supreme Court’s ruling “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights.”
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President Joe Biden on Thursday slammed the Supreme Court’s decision to keep a Texas law in place that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Biden in a statement called the ruling, handed down at midnight Thursday, “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost fifty years.”

The Supreme Court’s decision came 24 hours after the Texas anti-abortion law, one of the most restrictive in the nation, took effect. It prohibits abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs at the six-week mark of pregnancy, a time when many people do not yet know they are pregnant.

“This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest,” Biden said.

In a 5-4 vote, the high court’s majority argued that its ruling was technical and not based on the substance of the law, which could still be legally challenged. The abortion providers, who called on the court to block the law, did not make their case in the face of “complex and novel antecedent procedural questions,” the justices wrote in an unsigned opinion.

“In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,” the justices wrote.

The Texas statute differs from other abortion restrictions in the country by inviting private citizens to enforce the ban, rather than state officials. The law allows private citizens to sue an abortion provider or someone helping a patient get an abortion past the six-week mark. For every successful lawsuit, the private citizen will be awarded up to $US10,000 ($AU13,573), in addition to legal expenses.

“By allowing a law to go into effect that empowers private citizens in Texas to sue health care providers, family members supporting a woman exercising her right to choose after six weeks, or even a friend who drives her to a hospital or clinic, it unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,” Biden said.

“Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women,” he added.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s three liberal members in dissenting, saying he voted to block the Texas law so the court could have more time to consider it.

“The statutory scheme before the Court is not only unusual, but unprecedented,” Roberts wrote in a dissenting opinion.

Fiercely rebuking the court’s order, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a separate dissent that “a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

Biden said the justices in dissent “all demonstrate the error of the Court’s action here powerfully.”

Promising to “launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision,” Biden called on the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services to explore what options the federal government has available to “ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday also weighed in on the Texas law, saying: “The Justice Department is deeply concerned.”

“We are evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women, including access to an abortion,” he said in a statement.