The Supreme Court on Nov. 1 will hear oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of a new Texas abortion law — just days after agreeing to hear the case. That’s just one of many unusual things about the Texas law, which halted almost all abortions in the nation’s second-most populous state.

The court plans to hear another major abortion case this fall: Justices previously set Dec. 1 as the day for arguments in a case from Mississippi that directly challenges Roe v. Wade and other decisions that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion before a fetus is viable.

The high court does not need to weigh in on the constitutional right to abortion in the Texas case, which is actually two separate suits joined together — one brought by the Biden Justice Department and a second brought by abortion providers in Texas. The court instead has asked the lawyers to weigh in on the Texas law’s unique enforcement mechanism. Designed to evade legal challenges, the law, S.B. 8, rests enforcement not with Texas officials, but with private citizens who can sue anyone who performs an abortion or “aids and abets” someone in obtaining an abortion. The law took effect Sept. 1 after the Supreme Court refused earlier requests to void it. It bans abortions after six weeks, well before the generally accepted standard for viability of 22 to 24 weeks.

Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog breaks down the issues before the court and what the court might do about Texas’ abortion law in this conversation for KHN’s “What the Health?” that aired Thursday. She notes this is the quickest turnaround for a case to be heard by the justices since the Bush v. Gore decision in the 2000 presidential election.

“Everything about this is so unusual,” she said.

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KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.


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Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.