Texas abortion law: Supreme Court refuses to block six-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest

The law prohibits abortions once cardiac activity can be detected which is usually around six weeks

A divided US Supreme Court has failed to block an extreme Texas law that bans most abortions in the state and strips women of the right to the procedure.

The law prohibits abortions once cardiac activity can be detected which is usually around six weeks and before most women know they are pregnant. There are also no exceptions for rape or incest.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • The radical abortion law was signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May and will come into effect on Wednesday after the court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal.
  • It is the strictest law against abortion rights in the US since the high court’s landmark Roe v Wade decision in 1973 - where the court ruled that the Constitution would protect a pregnant woman’s right to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.
  • At least 12 other states have also enacted bans early in pregnancy but they have all been blocked.
  • The court’s three liberal justices - Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan - were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in voting against the law. All four dissenting justices wrote separate statements underscoring their disagreement with the majority.
  • Politicians in Texas wrote the law to evade federal court review by allowing private citizens to bring civil lawsuits against anyone involved in the abortion, other than the patient.

What’s been said

“This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century.

"The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes.

And, outrageously, it deputises private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who they believe has helped another person get an abortion, which might even include family members, health care workers, front desk staff at a health care clinic, or strangers with no connection to the individual."

US President Joe Biden

Background

Texas has long had some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the US.

In 2013, a law was passed which led to more than half of the state’s 40-plus clinics being closed before the Supreme Court eventually stepped-in.

The court will also begin to hear arguments in another major case of abortion rights in the autumn. That cases involves the state of Mississippi, which is asking to be allowed to enforce an abortion ban after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

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