As a legal battle plays out in the courts, the Biden administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a Texas law that bans most abortions in the state.

The Justice Department asked the high court Monday to reverse a decision by an appeals court that allows the law to remain in effect while litigation over the policy continues. 

The Republican-backed law bans abortions once cardiac activity has been detected in an embryo, which typically occurs at six weeks, a point when some women are not aware they are pregnant.

The law also allows members of the public to sue people who may have facilitated an abortion after six weeks. 

The Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue once before in a lawsuit filed by abortion providers. In a 5-4 vote last month, the court allowed the law to remain in effect as the legal battle over it continues.

The Supreme Court, however, has not yet ruled on the constitutionally of the Texas law. 

The high court became more conservative under former President Donald Trump, who appointed three justices to the nine-seat bench. Conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority.

The court’s handling of the abortion issue is being closely watched since it allowed the restrictive Texas law to take effect last month. Later in September, the court announced it would hear arguments in December in a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade, the decades-old ruling that gives women the right to an abortion.

The court scheduled oral arguments for December 1 to hear a case concerning a Mississippi state law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The case asks justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allows women to have abortions in most circumstances. Roe v. Wade establishes a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion before a fetus is viable, typically around 24 weeks of pregnancy.

The court’s latest actions have fueled speculation that a majority of the justices could be inclined to formally curtail abortion rights.

A poll released by Monmouth University last month found that 62% of Americans believe abortion should either always be legal or be legal with some limitations. Twenty-four percent said it should be illegal except in rare circumstances such as rape, while 11% said it should always be illegal. 

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

 

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