The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the legal challenge brought forward by abortion providers against Texas’ unconstitutional law imposing restrictions may continue, bringing new life into the fight against the statute but also drawing the ire of reproductive rights advocates who criticized the ruling for not blocking the law outright.
The court allowed the suit to continue on an 8-1 decision but did not stop the law’s enforcement.
Instead, the suit will continue in a lower federal court, where abortion providers will resume seeking to block the law, commonly referred to as Senate Bill 8—the Texas Heartbeat Act—a Texas statute enacted in 2021 that prohibits physicians from performing or inducing an abortion if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat.
Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenting vote.
While the legal challenge against the Texas law was allowed to proceed, women’s autonomy and the right to privacy remain in peril as the top court considers a case from Mississippi that could put an end to constitutional protections on abortions. The high court is set to rule on that case next summer.
“In its finest moments, this Court has ensured that constitutional rights ‘can neither be nullified openly and directly by state legislators or state executive or judicial officers, nor nullified indirectly by them through evasive schemes . . . whether attempted ingeniously or ingenuously,’ wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who added: “Today’s fractured Court evinces no such courage.”
Calling the law “a brazen challenge to our federal structure,” Sotomayor said the abortion issue echoes the arguments used by proponents of slavery, adding that the Civil War failed to extinguish theories presuming that states have the power of nullification over federal laws and Constitutional rights recognized by the Supreme Court.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed his “outrage” at the court’s decision to allow the Texas six-week abortion ban to remain in effect and said he would use similar legal tactics to reassert gun control in the Golden State.
“I am outraged by yesterday’s US Supreme Court decision allowing Texas’s ban on most abortion services to remain in place, and largely endorsing Texas’s scheme to insulate its law from the fundamental protections of Roe v. Wade,” said Newsom. “But if states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts that compare assault weapons to Swiss Army knives, then California will use that authority to protect people’s lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm’s way,”
Newsom said he directed his staff to work with lawmakers “on a bill that would create a right of action allowing private citizens to seek injunctive relief, and statutory damages of at least $10,000 per violation plus costs and attorney’s fees, against anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit or parts in the State of California. If the most efficient way to keep these devastating weapons off our streets is to add the threat of private lawsuits, we should do just that.””