The US supreme court is set to hear oral arguments over whether Texas can continue to allow private citizens to enforce a controversial six-week abortion ban on Monday.
Texas's ban has halted the vast majority of abortions in America's second largest state geographically, where more than 6 million women of child-bearing age live.
The focus of arguments is whether Texas can allow private citizens to enforce an abortion ban in direct contradiction to supreme court precedent in Roe v Wade, which provides a constitutional right to abortion to roughly 24 weeks, and whether the federal government then has standing to stop the law in court.
The nine-member bench will hear from three parties: attorneys for Texas, the Biden administration and abortion providers.
In briefs, Texas argued the supreme court should not review the case, and the state wrote the law specifically to frustrate opponents. SB8 deputizes private citizens to enforce its provisions in civil court, awarding plaintiffs $10,000 fees for any violation of its law, in an attempt to avoid federal court scrutiny.
However, Texas argued if the court did review its case, it should use the opportunity to overturn Roe v Wade. The landmark 1973 case allows abortion to the point a fetus can survive outside the womb. Texas's law bans abortion before most people know they are pregnant.
The court appears unlikely to overturn Roe v Wade in this case, and will probably focus instead on two other issues. First, is the private enforcement mechanism constitutional and, second, can the federal government sue to stop it?
Both the Biden administration and abortion providers have asked the court to block the law, claiming it is incompatible with Roe v Wade and causing immediate harm to people seeking abortions in Texas.
The hearing comes just one month before arguably the most important abortion rights case in five decades: Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization. In Dobbs, the court will consider whether Mississippi can ban nearly all abortion after 15 weeks gestation, roughly nine weeks earlier than supreme court precedent in Roe v Wade currently permits.
Both the court's decision not to block Texas's law and its acceptance of the Dobbs case are viewed as an ominous signs for the future of legal abortion in the US.