Cecile Richards: Court's Texas move could mean end of Roe

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HOUSTON (AP) — A year after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the country's top abortion-rights activists warned that the Supreme Court’s recent inaction on Texas’ extremely restrictive new abortion law could signal the end of judicial checks and balances on the issue.

“For a lot of people, they’ve always assumed that, even if they lived in a state that passed restrictions on reproductive care, that there was always a judicial system that would be there to protect them and declare these laws unconstitutional,” Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, told The Associated Press in an interview this week.

“That isn’t happening any more.”

To coincide with Saturday's anniversary of the death of Ginsburg, whom she called “a trailblazer and advocate for women everywhere,” Richards released an open letter warning that Texas' Republican leaders "have outlined a roadmap for other Republican governors to follow suit, with the acquiescence of the Supreme Court.”

“The right to a safe and legal abortion that had been protected under our constitution and by our judicial system for nearly 50 years is in jeopardy, and we must fight to fully regain it," wrote Richards, who stepped down from the helm of Planned Parenthood in 2018 and currently co-chairs American Bridge 21st Century, which supports liberal causes and conducts opposition research on Republicans

Texas' new law, which is the nation's most restrictive, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy and before some women know they’re pregnant. Courts have blocked other states from imposing similar restrictions, but Texas’ law differs significantly because it leaves enforcement to private citizens through lawsuits instead of prosecutors through criminal charges.

The measure took effect this month after the U.S. Supreme Court declined an emergency appeal from abortion providers asking that it be stayed. Opponents of the law have called it the nation’s biggest curb to abortion rights since the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a nationwide right to abortion at any point before a fetus can survive outside the womb, which is roughly around the 24th week.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has defended the measure — which has no exceptions for rape or incest — saying it does not force victims to give birth and vowing that the state “will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them.”