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Supreme Court ruling on Texas abortion law rattles lawmakers

The Supreme Court’s decision last week to decline to block a restrictive Texas abortion law is rattling lawmakers in Washington and prompting the Biden administration to look for legal avenues that it says would protect women’s rights.

Lawmakers and administration officials expressed concerns over the new law, which took effect in Texas last week, and suggested strategies that they said could help protect abortion rights for women on the federal level.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that lawyers at the Justice Department are “looking for legal remedies” to protect women’s constitutional rights in Texas. A team at the Department of Health and Human Services is searching for strategies to get women health care services they need with the new law now in place, he said.

“We are going to find ways if they’re at all possible — and I think they are possible — we are going to find ways to make a difference for the women of Texas to try to protect their constitutional rights, yes,” Klain said.

Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) warned of the “deadly consequences” that may follow the implementation of the abortion ban in her home state.

“There are folks who want to believe that you can eliminate abortion, but what this law and other laws like it will do is simply make it deadlier, more dangerous. Women are going to take their health into their own hands. It will impact young women, poor women and women of color, and I’m really afraid of the lives that will be lost as a result,” she told guest host Weijia Jiang on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Aspects of the new law were also met with criticism from Republicans, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.).

The Illinois lawmaker said he did not agree with the part of the law that would essentially allow private citizens to “tattle” on one another. He endorsed having open debates on the issue of abortion but not allowing citizens to sue others for their involvement in the process.

“I’m pro-life, but what I don’t like to see is this idea of every citizen being able to tattle, sue an Uber driver, as you said, be deputized to enforce this abortion law to whatever they want,” Kinzinger told host Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill in May that called for banning abortions statewide when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The bill also sought to allow most private citizens to sue abortion providers if they believe they are violating the new law. Those who bring successful lawsuits could be awarded at least $10,000.

The legislation, referred to by many as the “fetal heartbeat bill,” went into effect last week, but a group of abortion providers filed a request to the Supreme Court requesting that the measure be blocked.

The same day the bill went into effect in Texas, sparking outrage and concern across the country, the high court weighed in on the measure and rejected the request to block the bill, cementing its place in Texas law and effectively giving the green light to other states to pursue similar measures in their legislatures.

The state Senate leader in Florida has already said the legislature is ready to replicate Texas’s bill. 

With the Supreme Court having weighed in and the bill officially implemented in Texas, abortion advocates and lawmakers nationwide are searching for their next move, afraid that the law could lead to further chipping away of the decision set forth in the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) proposed another way to protect the law on the federal level: eliminating the filibuster, which would allow Democrats to pass a bill with a simple majority vote instead of needing 60 members to support.

“We just will get nowhere if we keep this filibuster in place,” Klobuchar said.

That move, however, is unlikely to happen considering the staunch opposition to nixing the legislative hurdle by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Klobuchar also pointed to the Texas law to further bolster her argument that 83-year-old Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer should consider retiring sooner rather than later in order to have a chance at a Democratic-appointed justice to retain a narrower conservative majority. 

“I believe, if he is seriously considering retirement — and he has said he would do it based on not only his own health but also the future of the court — if this decision doesn’t cry out for that, I don’t know what does,” the senator told Bash.

Tags Adam Kinzinger Amy Klobuchar Dana Bash Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Ron Klain Stephen Breyer Veronica Escobar
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