Texas abortion providers and advocates were dealt another setback on Thursday when the Supreme Court rejected their request for a federal judge to accelerate the legal challenge to the Lone Star State’s six-week abortion ban.
Though no majority opinion was issued, the six conservative and moderate justices voted in lockstep with each other while the three liberal justices (Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) dissented.
“This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote.
Sotomayor further lamented that the Texas law supposedly violates 50 years of Supreme Court precedents by creating a “private bounty-hunter scheme.”
“It has been over four months since Texas Senate Bill 8 took effect,” she wrote. “The law immediately devastated access to abortion care in Texas through a complicated private bounty-hunter scheme that violates nearly 50 years of this court’s precedents.”
“Today, for the fourth time, this court declines to protect pregnant Texans from egregious violations of their constitutional rights,” she added.
“That victory was an empty one, the dissenting justices wrote on Thursday, because the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, refused to return the case to the trial judge and instead sent it on a legal detour to a state court,” noted the Times.
The pro-life organization Texas Right to Life celebrated the decision on Thursday, hailing it as another opportunity to save preborn lives:
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States denied the abortion industry’s desperate request to return Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson—the lawsuit challenging the Texas Heartbeat Act—back to a federal district judge proven to be hostile to the law.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that certain state licensing officials might have indirect authority to enforce some aspects of the Texas Heartbeat Act, and thus the lawsuit may only proceed against them. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recognized this question as a matter of state law, therefore certifying the Supreme Court of Texas to determine to what extent these officials may enforce the Texas Heartbeat Act.
Simply put: The Fifth Circuit is correct, and the abortion industry is wrong. With today’s ruling, the lawsuit will continue in the appropriate venue, and the Texas Heartbeat Act will continue to save preborn lives.
Abortion advocates likewise decried the ruling on Thursday, charging that the women of Texas have been stripped of their constitutional rights.
“Once again the Supreme Court has betrayed the people of Texas, who have been callously stripped of their constitutional right to abortion for more than four months now,” Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in a press release.
“By enabling the state’s obvious ploy to delay any resolution to this case, this Court is complicit in the widespread harm to Texans who remain unable to make meaningful decisions about their own bodies,” she continued.
A separate case out of Mississippi – Dobbs v. Jackson – could further decide the fate of Roe v. Wade as the justices decide if the state’s abortion ban after 15 weeks violates the undue burden test of Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
“The current mode of evaluation is an undue burden test tethered to a viability line: Pro-Life laws that impose an undue burden on a mother before a child can survive outside of the womb are considered constitutionally invalid. Precisely what an undue burden is and the arbitrariness of viability are disputed,” noted Texas Right to Life.
The petition is In re Whole Woman’s Health, No. 21-962 in the Supreme Court of the United States.