The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled on Friday that Texas abortion providers can sue over the state’s ban on most abortions, but the justices are allowing the law to remain in effect.
The court made its ruling more than a month after hearing arguments over the law that makes abortion illegal after any signs of cardiac activity are detected in an embryo. Although most fetal heartbeats can be detected by about the sixth week of gestation, most people don’t even know they are pregnant that early. The Texas law also provides no exceptions for pregnancies that occur due to rape or incest, and authorizes lawsuits against clinics, doctors, and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion performed after the legally allowed six weeks.
Since it took effect in September, the law has imposed the most restrictive abortion curbs in the nation since the Supreme Court first declared a woman’s right to an abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The Court was divided 5-4, with conservatives in the majority, on another knotty issue, whom to target with a court order that ostensibly tries to block the law. The Justices ruled that Texas licensing officials may be sued, but dismissed claims against state court judges, court clerks, and Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The SCOTUS ruling re the Texas abortion ban made little news, but one overlooked point emerged: The CJ joined the 3 liberals in treating Roe & Casey as binding law and deeming SB-8 “unconstitutional.” He called abortion “a right protected under the Federal Constitution.”
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) December 10, 2021
The outcome is at best only a partial victory for abortion providers, as the same federal judge who already has once blocked the law almost certainly will be asked to do so again. But then his decision will be reviewed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has twice voted to allow enforcement of the abortion ban.
— Molly Jong-Fast (@MollyJongFast) December 10, 2021
The case could return to the Supreme Court, and so far there have not been five votes on the nine-member court to put the law on hold while the legal fight plays out.
The only clarity in today's abortion ruling is about how fractured the Court is on this issue. SB8 remains in effect in Texas. Abortion rights are severely restricted. No reason to believe it won't get worse when the Court decides Dobbs, where it will reverse or gut Roe v. Wade.
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) December 10, 2021
In a separate opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor chastised her colleagues for what she said was “delay” in the case that has had “catastrophic consequences for women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion in Texas.” She said the court’s decision closed off the most direct route to challenging the law and would “clear the way” for other states to “reprise and perfect Texas’ scheme in the future to target the exercise of any right recognized by this court with which they disagree.”
BOOM! Justice Sotomayor TORE INTO the Supreme Court's "madness" for not striking down the abortion law, calling it a betrayal "of the citizens of Texas, but also our constitutional system of government."
Retweet if you agree with Justice Sotomayor!
— Chip Franklin.com (@chipfranklin) December 10, 2021