the essential The Supreme Court of the United States, profoundly overhauled by Donald Trump, meets on Monday to examine a law which for two months has drastically limited the right of Texans to terminate their pregnancy and represents the the hardest blow to the right to abortion in nearly 50 years.
“Abortion is essential” against “let their hearts beat”, each group faced each other, armed with signs and banners, under the watchful eye of the police.
The influential court must hear from 10 H 00 (14 H 00 GMT) two separate appeals against a Texas law which prohibits abortion as soon as the embryo’s heartbeat is noticeable, i.e. around six weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of incest or rape .
This threshold comes in much earlier than the limit set by the Supreme Court itself. After having recognized in 1973 the right of women to have an abortion, the High Court clarified in 1992 that it applied as long as the fetus is not viable outside the uterus, that is to say around 15 weeks of pregnancy.
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These historic judgments, although having authority over the whole country, still do not pass with part of the population – especially on the right and in religious circles. To satisfy their voters, local Republican officials therefore regularly adopt laws which openly flout the jurisprudence of the high court. But so far, the courts have always prevented their implementation.
Texas, a real laboratory of the most conservative ideas, has however devised a new device that complicates the intervention of the federal justice.
Its law indeed entrusts citizens “exclusively” with the task of enforcing this prohibition, by encouraging them to take civil action against people and organizations which help women to abort beyond six weeks.
In case of victory before the judge, these citizens will get 10 00 dollars in compensation, the law provides. Its detractors see it as a “bonus for denouncing”.
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Seized urgently for the first time, the Supreme Court took refuge behind these “new questions of procedure” to refuse, by a narrow majority, to block the entry into force of the law on September 1.
His inaction, seen as a sign of the influence of the magistrates appointed by Donald Trump, had been sharply criticized on the left, Democratic President Joe Biden lambasting a decision that creates “chaos” and “insults the rule of law”. Since then, the legal battle has intensified with the intervention of the federal government and contradictory decisions of a first judge instance and a court of appeal.
The 22 October, the Supreme Court finally decided to jump into the fray and act quickly: it scheduled a hearing ten days later, a speed that it had not shown since its intervention to attribute the contested presidential election of 2000 to George W. Bush.
On Monday, the Nine Wise Men will hear the arguments of the parties. They should not address the right to abortion but only the legal mechanism created by Texas. So that it does not lose sight of the enormous human stakes of the case, the powerful organization of Family Planning sent them a compilation of testimonies collected in its Texan clinics. She cites in particular a girl of 10 years pregnant, whose mother does not have the means to travel outside the State, who lets go during the consultation: “Mom, it was an accident, why do they want me to keep it?”
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The Supreme Court could render its decision fairly quickly. Even if the conservative magistrates are in the majority, defenders of the right to abortion display cautious optimism because the Texan mechanism arouses criticism even on the right.
They have indeed received the support of unlikely allies: in an argument sent to the Court, the Firearms Policy Coalition, which defends the right to carry weapons, stressed that the mechanism chosen by Texas could be adopted in other states to attack other rights.
Whatever the outcome of this battle, the war will not be over: the Supreme Court must examine on December 1 a Mississippi law which prohibits abortion afterwards 14 weeks of pregnancy. For observers, it could take advantage of this more classic text to begin to unravel its case law, by returning at least to the criterion of “viability of the fetus”.