US sees battles in state courts, primaries over abortion
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Abortion bans were temporarily blocked in Texas, Louisiana and Utah, while a federal court in Tennessee and South Carolina said a law sharply restricting the procedure would take effect there immediately as the battle over whether women may end pregnancies shifted from the nation’s highest court to courthouses around the country.
The US Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to end constitutional protection for abortion by overturning the precedent set by Roe v Wade opened the gates for a wave of litigation. One side sought quickly to put statewide bans into effect, and the other tried to stop or at least delay such measures.
Much of the initial court activity focused on “trigger laws,” adopted in 13 states that were designed to take effect swiftly upon last week’s ruling.
Additional lawsuits could also target old anti-abortion laws that were left on the books in some states and went unenforced under Roe. Newer abortion restrictions that were put on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling are also coming back into play.
Rulings to put trigger laws on hold came swiftly in Utah and Louisiana on Monday, and a Texas judge on Tuesday blocked officials from enforcing a dormant 1925 abortion ban that the state’s Republican attorney general said was back in effect after the US Supreme Court ruling.
Separately, a federal court on Tuesday allowed Tennessee’s ban on abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy to take effect. A Utah judge on Monday blocked that state’s near-total abortion ban from going into effect for 14 days, to allow time for the court to hear challenges to the state’s trigger law.
In South Carolina, a federal court lifted its prior hold on an abortion restriction there, allowing the state to ban abortions after an ultrasound detects a heartbeat, usually around six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
Meanwhile, the midterm primary season enters a new, more volatile phase on Tuesday as voters participate in the first elections in Colorado and Illinois since the decision. Beyond these two states, elections are being held in Oklahoma, Utah, New York, Nebraska, Mississippi and South Carolina.
The Biden administration is watching closely for states violating women’s rights and plans to take aggressive legal actions, US Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said on Tuesday.