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Supreme Court grants expedited hearing for clinics' challenge to Texas law

By James Pollard, The Texas Tribune
Supreme Court grants expedited hearing for clinics' challenge to Texas law
Anti-abortion activists pray outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the first day of its new term in Washington, D.C., on October 4. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to take up abortion providers' challenge to Texas' near-total abortion ban sooner than the high court usually would hear arguments.

While the clinics' lawsuit has not been heard by a federal appellate court, the Supreme Court agreed late Monday to expedite the request from several clinics and providers that the high court instead consider the case. Texas must respond by noon Thursday.

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The move came just hours after the Biden administration, in a separate challenge to Texas' Senate Bill 8, asked the high court to halt the near-total abortion ban while the Justice Department's legal challenge to the new restrictions goes through the courts.

In its request filed Monday, the Justice Department argued that allowing the law to stand would "perpetuate the ongoing irreparable injury to the thousands of Texas women who are being denied their constitutional rights," it added. The Supreme Court previously declined to block the law from taking effect in the providers' lawsuit, though it did not weigh in on SB 8's constitutionality.

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The Justice Department's request comes after a series of federal court decisions flip-flopped on whether the law should remain in effect as its constitutionality is being challenged.

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Last Thursday, a panel of federal appellate judges ordered the law would remain in place. That decision came after a U.S. district court blocked the law for just two days until the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- perhaps the most conservative appeals court in the nation -- froze the order.

Texas, the Justice Department argued in its filing, crafted an "unprecedented" structure to thwart the courts. SB 8, which bans abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant, has made abortion "effectively unavailable" after that time period, according to the Justice Department.

RELATED Justice Department to ask Supreme Court to block Texas abortion ban

"Texas has, in short, successfully nullified this Court's decisions within its borders," the Justice Department wrote.

Kim Schwartz, communications director for Texas Right to Life, told the Texas Tribune that the anti-abortion organization doesn't expect the Biden administration's effort to succeed.

The law continues to force Whole Woman's Health, which runs four abortion clinics in Texas and six more in other states, to turn away "nearly all patients," CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said in a statement.

RELATED Supreme Court appears open to allowing Kentucky AG to defend abortion law

"The emotional toll for our staff and providers is matched only by the anguish our patients face when they are denied abortion care," Hagstrom Miller said. "This injustice must stop and we hope the Supreme Court will do what's right."

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Thousands gather for Women's March across U.S.

Thousands participating in the annual Women's March walk up Constitution Avenue toward the U.S. Supreme Court, past the U.S. Capitol, to show support for abortion and reproductive rights in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

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