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Government/Politics

A state district court judge hears over a dozen challenges to Texas’ abortion law Wednesday

 Several dozen people showed up at the Capitol to protest Texas' controversial anti-abortion law on Sept. 11, 2021.
Several dozen people showed up at the Capitol to protest Texas' controversial anti-abortion law on Sept. 11, 2021.

A state district judge on Wednesday morning is hearing arguments from abortion rights groups challenging Texas’ restrictive abortion law in what could be the first court hearing over the statute’s constitutionality.

David Peeples, a retired state magistrate judge, will preside over the hearing, which starts at 9 a.m. and is expected to last all day. Peeples will hear over a dozen cases filed in state court challenging Texas’ law, which effectively bans abortions after about six weeks.

These lawsuits — filed by Planned Parenthood, doctors, social workers, abortion fund organizations, practical support networks and lawyers — were consolidated by Texas’ multidistrict litigation panel and will be heard together. The plaintiffs have asked that the court declare Texas’ new law unconstitutional.

“In short, SB8’s enforcement mechanism, created to subvert one constitutional right, violates the Texas and United States Constitutions,” wrote attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

It's unclear what the outcome of the hearing will be or what weight it could hold overall, but it's the latest challenge against the controversial law to make the courts.

The lawsuits target Texas Right to Life, a prominent anti-abortion organization that helped draft Texas’ law and has vowed to sue violators — although the group has not yet filed suits against anyone.

Texas Right to Life, in an October statement on its website, said it believes these lawsuits will not affect the overall way the law is enforced in the state.

“These lawsuits do nothing towards preventing the Texas Heartbeat Act from being enforced against other individuals and groups within the abortion industry, should they violate the law,” the organization said.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in two other cases challenging the abortion law, is also expected to rule soon on whether to allow the challenges to proceed. During those hearings, the majority of justices expressed concerns with the way the Texas law is enforced. The statute forbids state or law officials from enforcing it, instead relying on private citizens to sue those who violate it.

Wednesday's hearing can be viewed live on this YouTube channel.

This is a developing story; check back for more.

Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/11/10/texas-abortion-law-state-court/.

Copyright 2021 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.