Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in 2 Texas Heartbeat Act Cases. Here Are the Top Takeaways.

We are only a month into the Supreme Court’s 2021-22 term and abortion already appears to be this season’s defining topic.

The court heard arguments in two cases on Monday related to the Texas Heartbeat Act, which bans most abortions after the fetal heartbeat is detected (which is usually about six weeks after conception). And in just one month, the court will hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenges the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks.

While Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization focuses on the constitutional merits of the Mississippi ban, the Texas cases focus on how the legislature sought to shield the Texas abortion ban from legal challenge in its Heartbeat Act.

Ordinarily, parties that opposed the law would file a lawsuit before it was scheduled to go into effect, asking for an injunction to stop any enforcement while its constitutionality is litigated. That’s what happened in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Texas law, however, says that it can be enforced only by “private civil actions” and removes public officials (those normally tasked with the enforcement of state and federal law) from the enforcement process on the Texas Heartbeat Act altogether. As a result, the law went into effect as scheduled on Sept. 1.

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