ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa condemns Texas law SB 8, which prohibits abortion care after a ‘fetal heartbeat’ can be detected, at roughly 6 weeks gestation, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Most pregnant people don’t even realise they are pregnant at that early stage.

“SB 8 is unconstitutional under US law as it now stands because of Roe v Wade, which is still good law in the USA,” said ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak. “By not blocking SB 8 from coming into force, the US Supreme Court has allowed an unconstitutional law to stand. This is way outside the norm.

“In the past, the Supreme Court would not make a decision of this importance without briefs and oral argument. This is so that justice can be administered transparently, and lower courts can apply the resulting legal precedent properly because they understand the court’s reasoning. But this Supreme Court has conducted much of its business on the ‘shadow docket’, outside normal scrutiny. This is an example.”

She went on, “SB 8 is different from previous attempts to ban abortion at the state level because it is enforced not by the state but by ordinary citizens who can sue anyone they allege has broken the law by assisting a person to access abortion care. That can include providing medical care, lending them the money for the procedure, or even just driving them to the clinic. Those accused could be required to pay their accuser up to $10,000.

 “No one knows what happens next, but it’s not looking good. Texas is in uncharted waters.”

New Zealand reformed its abortion laws in March of 2020, decriminalising the procedure and aligning it with other health care.