The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to stay a Texas law that bans abortions taking place after the six-week mark of gestation, in a landmark 5-4 ruling that some progressive critics are calling the beginning of the end of America’s longstanding Roe v. Wade decision, which legalizes abortions.
Texas is not the first state to enact a “heartbeat law,” as the legislation has become commonly known, but it is the first time a state has managed to avoid a stay that would have otherwise prevented the law from taking effect. The conservative-majority Supreme Court ruled against granting relief to a group of abortion providers in Texas, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s liberal wing in dissent.
The ruling came 24 hours after the Texas law went into effect on Wednesday, banning abortions in almost all cases after a heartbeat is detected in a fetus. The court’s ruling sets up a potentially historic win for the pro-life movement in the United States by overturning precedents set in 1992 in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case, and 1973’s Roe v. Wade, per the Washington Free Beacon.
The conservative majority of the Supreme Court rejected the arguments made by the abortion providers because of the law’s enforcement mechanism, which sets it apart from similar “heartbeat laws” in other states. The Texas law deputizes private citizens by granting them the ability to file lawsuit against violating abortion providers, rather than authorizing state agents to enforce the law. The Supreme Court dismissed the abortion providers’ request, which named every state court judge and clerk as defendants, on procedural grounds.
“It is unclear whether the named defendants in this lawsuit can or will seek to enforce the Texas law against the applicants in a manner that might permit our intervention,” the Supreme Court ruled. “The State has represented that neither it nor its executive employees possess the authority to enforce the Texas law either directly or indirectly. Nor is it clear whether, under existing precedent, this Court can issue an injunction against state judges asked to decide a lawsuit under Texas’s law.”
The court stated, however, that it has not made any decision on the constitutionality of the law, stressing 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 constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts.”
The law provides citizens the standing to sue abortion providers and any of those who “aid and abet” illegal abortion procedures for a bounty. The plaintiffs may sue and recover legal fees, as well as receive $10,000, if they win the lawsuit against an illegal abortion provider.