Civil and Human Rights

As Supreme Court weighs Texas abortion law, opposing sides focus on its impact

While lawyers and U.S. Supreme Court justices frequently zeroed in on esoteric legal points during Monday’s oral arguments over Texas’ restrictive abortion law, advocates on both sides of the issue took a much broader perspective.

Many abortion opponents focused on the number of abortions Senate Bill 8 has prevented by making the procedure illegal after embryonic cardiac activity can be detected, generally around the sixth week of gestation, before most women know they are pregnant.

“Over 9,000 Texan babies have been saved from abortion by the Texas heartbeat law since Sept. 1, and we refuse to let this bullying and abuse of power from the Biden administration and money-hungry abortion groups deter our commitment to protecting babies,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, a Christian advocacy group.

Abortion-rights advocates focused on the law’s impact on Texas women.

“Thousands of Texans are either being forced to travel hundreds of miles outside of their communities and across state lines to access basic health care, or they are being forced to carry pregnancies to term. This is unconscionable,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of America.

“The state of Texas has gone too far and SB 8 has gone on for too long — harming patients in Texas with each passing day,” she said.

Elizabeth Wydra, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, said the core issue before the Supreme Court — whether states can nullify a constitutional right while making it impossible for courts to respond — shouldn’t obscure the impact SB 8 has had on “real people.”

“The stakes of this case are enormous,” Wydra said. “If the court fails to stop SB 8 now, it will cause immediate, real harm and set a dangerous precedent for the right to access abortion across the nation.” 

But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a vocal opponent of abortion, said the Biden administration had overreached by claiming the power to sue Texas over its abortion regulation.

“I will oppose the federal government’s efforts to deprive Texans of the right to govern themselves,” Paxton said after Monday’s arguments in Washington. “I will always fight for the lives of the unborn, and this law puts our state in the forefront of protecting those without a voice.”

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