Julie Rovner

The headlines about presidential candidate Joe Biden's new health care plan called it "a nod to the past" and "Affordable Care Act 2.0." That mostly refers to the fact that the former vice president has specifically repudiated many of his Democratic rivals' calls for a "Medicare for All" system, and instead sought to build his plan on the ACA's framework.

The fate of the Affordable Care Act is again on the line Tuesday, as a federal appeals court in New Orleans takes up a case in which a lower court judge has already ruled the massive health law unconstitutional.

State attorneys general and women's health advocates who are hoping to block in court new Trump administration rules for Title X, the federal family planning program, face one major obstacle: The Supreme Court upheld very similar rules in 1991.

Those rules were summarily canceled after a change in administrations. But the court is arguably more conservative than it was 28 years ago.

With Democrats now in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, it might appear that the fight over abortion rights has become a standoff.

After all, abortion-rights supporters within the Democratic caucus will be in a position to block the kind of curbs that Republicans advanced over the past two years when they had control of Congress.

But those on both sides of the debate insist that won't be the case.

If last Friday's district court ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional were to be upheld, far more than the law's most high-profile provisions would be at stake.

In fact, canceling the law in full — as Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, ordered in his 55-page decision — could thrust the entire health care system into chaos.

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