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North Dakota, Minnesota senators, representatives weigh in on Texas abortion decision and possible future showdown

The new Texas law bans abortion after about six weeks. It also allows private citizens to sue anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion, from a doctor at a clinic to those who help pay for the procedure.

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A Capitol Police Officer walks with a dog near the U.S. Supreme Court, following an abortion ruling by the Texas legislature, in Washington, September 1, 2021. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
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The Supreme Court, declining to block a new Texas abortion law, this week renewed a profound debate on the issue, raising the likelihood that Democrats will attempt to codify a right to abortion in federal law.

That fight, set to unfold in coming months, will be refereed by an increasingly conservative Supreme Court, which could radically reshape abortion laws in the U.S.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., said she's ready.

"For nearly five decades, abortion has remained one of our nation’s biggest tragedies," she said in a statement released by her office Thursday. "It has taken more than 60 million innocent lives, and has affected countless mothers, fathers, and families. But this week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing the Texas Heartbeat Act to remain in effect – protecting unborn children from abortion after a heartbeat is detected – is incredibly encouraging, and I am optimistic."

The new Texas law bans abortion after about six weeks. Critically, it also allows private citizens to sue anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion, from a doctor at a clinic to those who help pay for the procedure. A plaintiff could win $10,000 plus legal fees for successfully doing so.

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That unusual construction — which makes everyday citizens enforcers — figured heavily in a 5-4 court decision not to block the law (though the court said it was open to hearing future cases on it). Ultimately, justices said, there were too many "complex and novel" legal questions unanswered by the law's opponents.

"The legal fight over the Texas law is far from over," Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., said in a statement released by his office. "The Supreme Court denied an emergency appeal to stay the Texas law, but acknowledged that other challenges can be brought. It is scheduled to hear a Mississippi case this fall as well. Regardless of the outcomes in these cases, I will always defend the right to life, work to advance pro-life policies, and oppose attempts to pass radical pro-abortion legislation.”

But the court’s logic was quickly condemned by pro-choice leaders in Washington. President Joe Biden said the law "unleashes unconstitutional chaos" and said he would "launch a whole-of-government effort" as a response.

“Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women,” he said in widely reported remarks. “This law is so extreme it does not even allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also offered strong criticism, arguing the law "delivers catastrophe to women in Texas, particularly women of color and women from low-income communities.

"Every woman everywhere has the constitutional right to basic health care," she continued in a prepared statement. "(The Texas law) is the most extreme, dangerous abortion ban in half a century, and its purpose is to destroy Roe v. Wade, and even refuses to make exceptions for cases of rape and incest. This ban necessitates codifying Roe v. Wade."

That step — toward federally codifying Roe v. Wade — is extraordinary, putting one of the country's most charged political issues on the House floor and potentially the Senate's. Democrats hold exceedingly slim margins in both chambers, making it unclear if such an effort would be successful.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., is poised to oppose any such effort.

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"Senator Hoeven believes we should protect the unborn, while also providing additional options and support to improve the health and well-being of mothers," read a statement released by his office Thursday. "Accordingly, he opposes codifying Roe v. Wade into law and has instead supported efforts to pass pro-life legislation in the U.S. Senate."

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., looks ready to vote with him. He called the Supreme Court’s decision on the Texas law a “historic win for the right to life in the United States,” and he’s previously cosponsored a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks (with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother).

Across the border, though, Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., are ready to vote, too.

"We must put Roe into law now," Klobuchar tweeted Thursday. "There is no time to lose."

Smith is ready to go further.

“If we (expand Democratic majorities), and we get a few more seats, we should use our power to eliminate the filibuster and expand the court,” she tweeted . “Republicans stole two Supreme Court seats and as demonstrated by this decision, much of the current court is dangerously unmoored from any reasonable principles of legal analysis.”

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