WASHINGTON - Abortion providers in Texas are asking the Supreme Court to prevent enforcement of a state law that would allow private citizens to sue anyone for helping a woman get an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.
The request to the court comes after a panel of appellate judges refused to block enforcement of the law before it takes effect on Wednesday.
If it goes into effect, the law would rule out 85% of abortions in Texas and force many clinics to close, the providers and abortion rights advocates supporting them said in an emergency filing with the high court on Monday.
The Texas law, signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May, would ban abortion in the nation’s second-biggest state after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks of pregnancy and is before many women even know they are pregnant.
It asks private citizens to enforce the ban by suing doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion. Among other situations, that would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.
The law squarely conflicts with nearly 50 years of Supreme Court decisions in favor of abortion rights dating back to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the providers argued in their high court filing.
Those rulings generally prohibit states from regulating abortions before the fetus can survive outside the womb, typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy. The justices are scheduled to hear a major abortion case in their upcoming term that could cut back on or even overturn the Roe decision. But a decision in a case over Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban is not expected before the late spring.