Texas Supreme Court hears arguments on SB 8, abortion providers speak out

As we approach the six-month anniversary of Senate Bill 8, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments surrounding the bill on Thursday.

The hearing centered around whether state or local governments could play a role in enforcing the bill. 

SB 8 went into effect on Sept. 1 and bans abortions once a heartbeat is detected. The bill language states that enforcement of the bill is done by private citizens suing abortion providers or those seeking abortions.

However, opponents claim that the language still allows for state medical licensing officials to play a role in enforcement. 

It is unclear when the Texas Supreme Court will issue a ruling.

Also on Thursday, the Center for Reproductive Rights hosted a press briefing alongside abortion providers, including representatives from Planned Parenthood.

New data released by Planned Parenthood on Thursday shows that from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, their centers in states surrounding Texas saw a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients from Texas, compared to the same time period in 2020.

In Oklahoma, there was a 2,500% increase.

"The staff is exhausted, the phone calls are nonstop," said Kathaleen Pittman, a clinic administrator at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana. "We’re seeing women who are crying because they can’t understand how anybody can have so much control over their lives." 

On Thursday, Texas Right to Life responded to the hearing in a news release, saying in part:

"Texas’ attorneys asserted in today’s hearing that the Texas Heartbeat Act was specifically written to preclude all government officials (such as the agencies named in abortionists’ lawsuit) from enforcing the law…. Texas Right to Life believes that the abortion industry’s case is invalid, and we are confident that the Texas Heartbeat Act will once again prevail against the abortion industry’s attack."

On Monday, the U.S. Senate will vote on the Women’s Health Protect Act, which would codify abortion rights as federal law. 

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