Supreme Court rules against Texas in abortion case – partially – but leaves law in place


The Supreme Court won a narrow victory against abortion providers on Friday as it partially sided with them in a challenge to Texas’ restrictive abortion law, but while the court’s decision will now let litigation proceed in lower courts against some defendants, the Tory-leaning court declined to block the restrictive law as it unfolded and ruled against a separate federal challenge .


The tribunal ruled 8-1 to let a lawsuit filed by abortion providers go forward in lower courts against certain state medical licensing officials who would take action against abortion providers if they violated the draft Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB 8), which prohibits them from providing abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy.

The ordinance states that abortion providers have the right to sue in federal court challenging the law even before they are prosecuted under it, because the law allows any citizen private from prosecuting anyone who performs or “aids or abets” an abortion. in the state – which Texas says shouldn’t be allowed.

The court decided not to let the lawsuit go ahead against other defendants who had been named in the lawsuit, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, state court clerks who would handle the lawsuits brought under SB 8 and the state judges who would hear those lawsuits. .

Only Judge Clarence Thomas dissented and said he would not have let the trial proceed against any of the named defendants.

The court separately ruled against a challenge to SB 8 brought by the Biden administration, ruling that the federal government’s request was “unforeseenly granted” and should not have been taken up by the court in the first place – he also refused to overturn a reprieve from a lower court order that temporarily stalled the law as it moved forward.

The decision noted that Judge Sonia Sotomayor disagreed with the ruling and would have overturned the stay.

Chief Critics

Although they sided with the court’s decision to let the lawsuit against state licensing officials continue, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan ruled that they would also have allowed the challenge to continue against other defendants. Sotomayor also posted an opinion joined by Breyer and Kagan that argued the court ‘failed’ to end SB 8 with its ruling on Friday and ‘seriously errs’ in not letting abortion providers sue the other defendants. of State. “By barring suits against state court officials and the state Attorney General, the Court effectively invites other states to refine SB 8’s model for nullifying federal rights,” Sotomayor wrote, arguing that the court “betrays not only the citizens of Texas, but also our constitutional system of government”.

To monitor

The court’s decision will now allow the abortion providers’ trial to proceed against the approved defendants in the lower district court and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had been blockage the proceedings in the district court are not progressing. The Justice Department’s case against SB 8 also remains with the 5th Circuit, though since the court has already issued a temporary order decision siding with Texas in the lawsuit, it seems unlikely that the lawsuit will succeed without the support of the Supreme Court. Several other states have already introduced invoices that copy SB 8 that are likely to be affected by how lower courts ultimately rule the case, and opponents of the law have also warned that states could use SB 8’s lawsuit provision to circumvent other federally protected rights like gun rights or same-sex marriage.

Key Context

SB 8 went into effect Sept. 1 as the most restrictive abortion law in the United States, banning nearly all abortions in the state and charging private citizens to enforce the law through lawsuits. against anyone “aiding and abetting” an abortion. The prosecution enforcement mechanism was designed to make it more difficult for a court to overturn the law – because it is harder to name defendants who can actually be prevented from enforcing the law – who survived a first test when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against abortion providers in their case and let SB 8 remain in effect. The court ruled it was too early for the abortion clinics to bring the case, but did not rule on the constitutionality of the law itself, and the judges said their decision should not prevent future challenges, leading to abortion providers then asking the court again to hear the case. The Biden administration filed its trial challenging SB 8 in September, which argued that the law violated the sovereignty of the federal government. A court of first instance ruled in favor of the Justice Department, resulting in SB 8 being blocked for approximately two days in the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on the texas side and lay down the law back in force.

What we don’t know

If Texas law and its prosecution provision will even be needed soon, as Texas and other states may soon be given the green light to ban abortion outright without the need for the creative enforcement mechanism of SB 8 The Supreme Court is set to issue an even more consequential ruling on abortion later this quarter in a case challenging Mississippi’s 15 weeks. abortion banot, which will generally consider whether abortion can be restricted before the fetus is viable. The ruling could result in a severe curtailment of federal abortion rights if the court significantly weakens or overturns its precedent in Roe v. Wade, and leading conservative justices signaled during closing arguments in the case Dec. 1 that they are likely to side with the Mississippi.

Further reading

Texas abortion law: Conservative Supreme Court justices signal willingness to rule against SB 8 (Forbes)

Supreme Court keeps Texas abortion law in effect for now, but will meet challenges (Forbes)

DOJ asks the Supreme Court to rule on Texas abortion law – Here are all the abortion cases the Court could rule on this term (Forbes)

Biden administration asks Supreme Court to block Texas abortion law (Forbes)

Abortion providers ask Supreme Court to hear Texas abortion case – again (Forbes)

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