Supreme Court refuses to block Texas abortion law again

Washington DC – The US Supreme Court on Friday refused again to halt the Texas abortion law that makes it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

People gathered earlier this month for the Denver Women's March to voice opposition to the abortion restrictions recently enacted in Texas.
People gathered earlier this month for the Denver Women's March to voice opposition to the abortion restrictions recently enacted in Texas.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

The justices said they will hear arguments next month on whether the Department of Justice has standing to sue Texas over a law that denies women their right to abortion.

The outcome is mostly a setback for the Biden administration and abortion-rights advocates. They had asked the court to put the Texas law on hold as constitutional and procedural issues were weighed.

Instead, the court, over a dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, allowed the law to remain in effect. The justices said they would weigh only the procedural issues, not whether the Texas law is unconstitutional.

The Biden administration had argued that Texas was using a private bounty scheme to deny women their constitutional rights.

The Texas Heartbeat Act, known also as Senate Bill 8, authorizes private citizens to file lawsuits against doctors who perform abortions after about six weeks, or anyone who aids in someone's access to an abortion.

This is the second time the court has refused to block the Texas law.

When one court acts, another strikes back

Thousands of people marched to the Texas State Capitol earlier this month to protest the Texas abortion law in Austin.
Thousands of people marched to the Texas State Capitol earlier this month to protest the Texas abortion law in Austin.  © imago/ZUMA Press

On September 1, the Supreme Court, by a majority by a 5-4 vote, allowed the Texas law to take effect.

That decision drew sharp reaction because it allowed the nation’s second-largest populous state to effectively ban most abortions, even though the Supreme Court has said for nearly 50 years they were constitutionally protected up to about 24 weeks by Roe vs. Wade.

On September 9, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the Justice Department was suing Texas for violating the constitutional rights of women. He won a ruling from a federal judge in Austin, who briefly blocked the Texas law.

But the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals overruled the temporary block by a 2-1 vote in a one-paragraph ruling. The Justice Department then filed an emergency appeal on October 18 urging the Supreme Court to intervene.

Instead, they won only a hearing on whether the federal government has standing to sue Texas. The court said it will hear arguments regarding that issue on November 1.

The justices are already set to reconsider the right to abortion in a case from Mississippi, which is defending a 15-week limit on abortions.

After winning a review of that issue, the state’s attorneys raised the stakes, arguing the court should overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision entirely and allow states to make nearly all abortions a crime.

The court will hear arguments on December 1 for the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

Cover photo: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

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