Justices leave Texas ban in place but leave door open for challenges.
But ruling leaves door open for other challenges
WASHINGTON – A deeply divided Supreme Court is allowing a Texas law that bans most abortions to remain in force, for now stripping most women of the right to an abortion in the nation’s second-largest state.
The court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal from abortion providers and others who sought to block enforcement of the law, which went into effect Wednesday. But the justices also suggested that their order likely isn’t the last word because other challenges to the law can still be brought.
The Texas law, signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in May, bars abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, usually around six weeks and before many women know they’re pregnant.
It is the strictest law against abortion rights in the United States since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 and part of a broader push by Republicans nationwide to impose new restrictions on abortion. At least 12 other states have enacted bans early in pregnancy, but all have been blocked from going into effect.
The court’s order declining to halt the Texas law came just before midnight Wednesday. The majority said those bringing the case had not met the high burden required for a stay of the law.
“In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitu
tionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,” the unsigned order said.
Chief Justice John Roberts dissented along with the court’s three liberal justices. All four dissenting justices wrote separate statements.
Roberts noted that while the majority denied the request for emergency relief, “the Court’s order is emphatic in making clear that it cannot be understood as sustaining the constitutionality of the law at issue.”
In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan called the law “patently unconstitutional,” saying it allows “private parties to carry out unconstitutional restrictions on the State’s behalf.”
President Joe Biden on Thursday blasted the ruling and said in a statement that his administration will launch a “whole-of-government effort
to respond to this decision” and look at “what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement that the Justice Department was “deeply concerned” and “evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women, including access to an abortion.”
While other abortion laws are enforced by state and local officials, with criminal sanctions possible, Texas lawmakers wrote the law to evade federal court review by allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in facilitating abortions in state court. That would include anyone who drives a woman to a clinic to get an abortion. Under the law, anyone who successfully sues another person would be entitled to at least $10,000.