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Senate panel to probe Supreme Court 'shadow docket' in Texas abortion case

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Senate panel to probe Supreme Court 'shadow docket' in Texas abortion case
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday against an emergency petition filed by abortion providers and activists seeking to block Texas' new abortion law. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin announced Friday that the chamber's judiciary committee will hold a hearing to review the Supreme Court's decision to allow Texas' restrictive abortion ban to stand.

Durbin, who is chairman of the committee, accused the high court of abusing its so-called "shadow docket," a term used to describe expedited decisions made outside the regular docket and without oral arguments.

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The Supreme Court voted 5-4 late Wednesday against an emergency application for relief filed by abortion providers in Texas who sought to halt Texas' new law.

Texas Senate Bill 8, signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May, outlaws abortions when a heartbeat is detectable, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy. It will deny the procedure to about 85% of patients who seek it in the state.

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The ban is enforced by members of the public who are able to sue anyone who provides or is involved in aiding and performing abortions barred by SB8, including anyone who drives a patient to the procedure.

Durbin decried the decision, along with another shadow docket decision last week in which the court overturned the Biden administration's pandemic-related eviction moratorium. He said such rulings can leave lower courts in the dark about how to apply Supreme Court precedent going forward.

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"The Supreme Court must operate with the highest regard for judicial integrity in order to earn the public's trust," Durbin said. "This anti-choice law is a devastating blow to Americans' constitutional rights -- and the court allowed it to see the light of day without public deliberation or transparency. At a time when public confidence in government institutions has greatly eroded, we must examine not just the constitutional impact of allowing the Texas law to take effect, but also the conservative court's abuse of the shadow docket."

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President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also vowed to fight Texas' new abortion law.

The House's top Democrat said she plans to bring up Rep. Judy Chu's Women's Health Protection Act, which will codify the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion into law. Biden said he's instructed his administration to launch a "whole-of-government effort" to respond to the law and see what the executive branch can do to ensure access to abortion for Texas women.

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