A controversial and strange new Texas law empowers private citizens to sue (and collect $10,000 for successfully suing) anyone who performs, aids, or abets an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. The fight over that law got more convoluted last night.
At first, the Supreme Court didn’t respond to an emergency petition to strike down the legislation, allowing it to come into effect early yesterday morning. Then, in the middle of the night, the Court released a one-paragraph, 5–4 decision denying the application.
The law seems to find strength in technicality. Technically, Texas did not just ban abortion—but in practice, its new law does just that. Technically, the Supreme Court did not nullify Roe v. Wade—but in practice, it did just that. Here’s how to make sense of it.
The law was designed to be difficult to challenge. “The key, as Texas lawmakers saw it, was not to criminalize abortions,” Mary Ziegler writes.
“Instead, the state has authorized private citizens in the state—quite literally any private citizen—to file lawsuits against anyone who performs or ‘knowingly … aids or abets’ an abortion.”
The Supreme Court keeps using emergency appeals to quietly make big changes to American law. “The shadow docket … now resembles a venue where the conservative legal movement can get speedy service from its friends on the Court,” Adam Serwer writes.
Here’s what abortion foes want next. Our staff writer Emma Green spoke with John Seago, the legislative director of Texas Right to Life, about whether his group is ready for a future in which abortion is totally illegal.
The law could backfire on Texas Republicans. Maybe abortion-rights activists will back down. Or, as David Frum argues is more likely, “anti-abortion-rights politicians are about to feel the shock of their political lives.”
The news in three sentences:
(1) The remnants of Hurricane Ida killed at least 40 people and caused intense flooding in the Northeast. (2) President Joe Biden declared an emergency in California, where firefighters continue to battle the Caldor Fire. (3) China maintains its lead in the medal count at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, which end this weekend.
Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:
Are you satisfied with your job? Our happiness columnist, Arthur C. Brooks, offers advice for choosing a fulfilling career path.
A break from the news: