The United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 not to block Texas’s “heartbeat” law, which banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, a pro-life victory.
A slight majority of justices ruled that abortion-provider plaintiffs did not meet the standard required for the Supreme Court to block the law before it took effect.
Gov. Gregg Abbott (R-TX) signed Senate Bill 8 in May, effectively banning abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, often occurring after six weeks of pregnancy. The law effectively prohibits abortions since they do not often detect pregnancy before the sixth week. Multiple states have attempted to implement similar measures, but the courts have blocked them.
The majority five justices, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, did not issue published opinion with their decision, the Court’s precise reasoning remains unclear, including whether the Texas law would survive a constitutional challenge on the merits when that question is squarely before the Supreme Court.
“The applicants now before us have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law at issue,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in dissent. “But their application also presents complex and novel antecedent procedural questions on which they have not carried their burden.”
Roberts explained that he was dissenting because an injunction would freeze the status quo while the courts work through whether Texas’s law violates a constitutional right to abortion, narrowly leaving open the possibility that he could vote in favor of the law down the road.
A strongly worded dissent was issued from the three liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
Until a citizen attempts to enforce it against an abortion provider, the legal proceedings may not move forward in the lower court, leaving the pro-life measure in effect indefinitely. Another major abortion case will be heard this term by the Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, and this case and other abortion cases may be held in suspension until the Supreme Court renders a decision in that case.
The case is Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, No. 21A24 in the United States Supreme Court.