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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

AG HEALEY LEADS EFFORT IN U.S. SUPREME COURT TO STOP UNCONSTITUTIONAL TEXAS ABORTION BAN

 AG HEALEY LEADS EFFORT IN U.S. SUPREME COURT TO STOP UNCONSTITUTIONAL TEXAS ABORTION BAN

Multistate Amicus Brief Urges the Court to Allow Challenges to Abortion Ban to Go Forward

            BOSTON – Following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that it will hear two challenges to Texas’ unconstitutional six-week abortion ban, Senate Bill 8 (S.B. 8), Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey led a coalition of 24 attorneys general asking the Court to block the ban from going into effect and allow challenges to the ban to proceed.

The amicus brief, filed with the Supreme Court in United States of America v. State of Texas et al. and Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, calls on the Court to rule that challenges brought by the United States and Texas abortion providers to S.B. 8 can go forward. Today’s brief argues that Texas should not be allowed to evade judicial review of its unconstitutional ban by purporting to grant enforcement authority solely to private bounty-hunters. The brief further argues that S.B. 8 is blatantly unconstitutional under binding Supreme Court precedent and is causing significant harm to patients in and outside of Texas.

“Texas’ unprecedented and blatantly unconstitutional attempt to end abortion is undermining the rule of law, endangering vulnerable residents in Texas, and straining healthcare systems in neighboring states,” said AG Healey. “We urge the Supreme Court to allow these challenges to S.B. 8 to go forward and to restore the constitutional rights of patients in need of care.”

According to the brief, S.B. 8 represents a “new and dangerous frontier” when it comes to state legislatures restricting or eliminating abortion access. As the attorneys general have argued, S.B. 8 not only bans almost all abortions in Texas in violation of the Supreme Court’s longstanding precedent, but also attempts to thwart judicial review and insulate Texas from accountability by purporting to create only a private enforcement scheme. Under S.B. 8, enforcement power is given to private citizens who are given the right to act as bounty hunters and sue and collect $10,000 from anyone who provides an abortion in violation of the ban or those who “aid or abet” such constitutionally protected care.

While the ban remains in place pending legal challenges, abortion is completely unavailable to the many people in Texas who do not discover their pregnancies at the earliest possible moment. Patients have been forced to travel out of state, which makes abortion for many people too difficult, too time-intensive, and too costly. Women are now forced to delay care or carry unwanted pregnancies to term, resulting in negative health and socioeconomic consequences for both them and their children. In addition, S.B. 8 forces survivors of rape and incest to carry their pregnancies to term. The brief also explains how the harms caused by S.B. 8 are rippling well beyond Texas, as people are forced to seek care in other states. As a result, clinics in those states are experiencing overwhelming capacity challenges and residents’ access to care is threatened. For example, in New Mexico, all abortion clinics were reportedly booked for weeks just one day after S.B. 8 went into effect. Patients traveling from Texas have accounted for close to a third of the total abortion patients in New Mexico since September 1. 

Similar to the brief filed by attorneys general earlier this month in the Supreme Court, today’s filing cites back to past examples from our Nation’s history, particularly related to some states’ resistance to desegregation, in arguing that the Court should not permit states to violate constitutional rights through state laws ostensibly enforced only by private parties. The Court “should not permit Texas to ‘nullif[y] indirectly’ the constitutional rights recognized in Roe and Casey through the ‘evasive scheme’ that it has created in S.B. 8,” the brief argues. 

Both cases are now before the Supreme Court and will be heard on November 1.

Joining AG Healey in today’s brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

This matter is being handled for Massachusetts by the AG’s Civil Rights Division attorneys Amanda Hainsworth and Abigail Taylor and State Solicitor Bessie Dewar.

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