Texas abortion providers ask U.S. Supreme Court to fast-track their challenge to state’s near-total abortion ban

Texas abortion providers have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up their challenge to the state’s law that nearly bans abortion on an expedited basis without waiting for an appellate court to make a decision.

The providers made the request more than three weeks after the court refused to block the law on a 5-4 vote, citing procedural difficulties but emphasizing that it was not ruling whether the statute is constitutional. In a request filed Thursday, providers and other abortion rights organizations asked the court to grant a petition for a “certiorari before judgment,” a rarely used procedure where the high court would immediately review the decision of a district court without an appeal having been decided by a federal appellate court.

The Supreme Court may decline to grant this request. Under court rules, the method can be used “only upon a showing that the case is of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination in this Court.”

Attorneys for the providers asked the court to immediately review the core issue of the case — whether a state can prevent federal court review of a law that blocks constitutional rights by delegating enforcement to the general public through lawsuits.

The new law went into effect on Sept. 1 and has forced clinics to stop offering procedures after approximately six weeks of pregnancy.

“The Texas Legislature has openly defied federal law and has done so in a way purposely designed not only to deprive Texans of their constitutional right to abortion but also to forestall federal judicial protection of that right,” the filing stated.

John Seago, legislative director for the prominent anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, called Thursday’s filing a “last-minute Hail Mary.”

On Thursday, former US Vice President Mike Pence said that he is hopeful the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court created during his and President Donald Trump’s administration would soon overturn abortion rights in the country.

“We see a crisis that brings us here today, a crisis that strikes at the very heart of civilisation itself. The erosion of the nuclear family marked by declining marriage rates, rising divorce, widespread abortion and plummeting birth rates,” Pence said during a forum in Budapest, Hungary.

On Wednesday, Republican Representative Webster Barnaby filed an abortion bill in the state of Florida that is similar to the one passed in Texas. Besides banning abortions after cardiac activity is detected, the bill would change all references to “fetus” in the state’s abortion laws to “unborn child”.

The bill also calls for $10,000 civil awards per abortion for the doctor who performs the procedure or any defendants that “aided or abetted” the procedure. People would have six years to file a lawsuit after a supposed illegal abortion is performed.