President Biden Launches Federal Effort Against a Restrictive Abortion Law in Texas

Texas abortion rights

Photo illustration by Katie Couric Media/Getty Images

The Lone Star State has emerged as a new battleground for reproductive rights.

President Biden is launching a “whole-of-government effort” to make sure women in Texas have safe and legal abortion access after the Supreme Court allowed the state to keep a restrictive new law in place. In a scathing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the court’s conservative majority “opted to bury their heads in the sand,” saying the state’s abortion ban is “clearly unconstitutional.”

What does the law mean for women in Texas?

Considered one of the most restrictive measures in the country, it bans abortions as early as six weeks, before many women even know that they’re pregnant. While it makes exceptions for medical emergencies, that doesn’t include rape or incest. The law also offers at least a $10,000 reward to anyone who successfully sues an abortion provider, which those providers say essentially “places a bounty on people who provide or aid abortions.” Some legal experts have also criticized the law: Mary Ziegler, a constitutional law professor, told Katie it could have “serious repercussions” as more and more states chip away at abortion rights.

What action is Biden taking?

While decrying the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision as an “unprecedented assault” on women’s reproductive rights, Biden has tasked the Gender Policy Council and White House Council with assessing steps the government can take to intervene on the ban. This includes looking specifically at potential policy actions by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice.

What’s Congress doing about it?

When the House returns to session Sept. 20, members plan to vote on legislation known as the Women’s Health Protection Act that would guarantee abortion access and codify Roe v. Wade. But the bill faces some serious hurdles: there are slim Democratic majorities in both chambers, and Senate Republicans will likely filibuster any bill passed by the House. 

Still, advocates believe it could gain some momentum after the controversy surrounding this Texas law. “The events of the last few days make clear that the time for the Women’s Health Protection Act has come,” Katherine Gillespie, an acting director at the Centers for Reproductive Rights, told us.

For more on how this Texas law will practically affect women, check out Katie’s must-see conversation with constitutional law professor Mary Ziegler and reporter Chabeli Carranza.