Abortion’s supporters were livid after a very divided U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request to stop a Texas anti-abortion law from taking effect.
The Texas “heartbeat” law signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott bans doctors from performing abortions if the heartbeat of the unborn child can be detected. Similar bills have been proposed in other states and have fallen by the wayside amid legal challenges.
But, as the SCOTUSblog summary of the case notes, Texas put a new wrinkle into its law. Instead of the state playing the role of enforcer, private citizens are allowed to sue anyone who violates the law and collect $10,000 if they win.
The law took effect on Tuesday amid challenges from pro-abortion groups who sought an injunction to stop the law while legal challenges played out.
President Joe Biden even weighed in, saying in a statement, “This extreme Texas law blatantly violates the constitutional right established under Roe v. Wade and upheld as precedent for nearly half a century. The Texas law will significantly impair women’s access to the health care they need, particularly for communities of color and individuals with low incomes.”
But one minute before midnight, the Supreme Court struck, and abortion advocates were enraged.
In a 5-4 decision, the court said that because of procedural issues connected with the injunction and the way the Texas law was designed, the injunction would not be granted.
“In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit,” the court said in its ruling.
“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 extent to which the court was split was revealed in the dissents filed. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan opposed the ruling.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were joined by three appointees of former President Donald Trump — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — in tossing aside the request for the injunction.
Again: Roberts, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan all wrote separate dissents highlighting different aspects of their disagreement with the majority (which partially explains the delay).
Didn’t matter. Barrett’s fifth vote made all the difference. https://t.co/vnAlOOuJEH
— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) September 2, 2021
Sototmayor’s dissent was particularly angry.
“The Court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand,” she wrote.
“Last night, the Court silently acquiesced in a State’s enactment of a law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents,” the appointee of former President Barack Obama wrote. “Today, the Court belatedly explains that it declined to grant relief because of procedural complexities of the State’s own invention. …
“Because the Court’s failure to act rewards tactics designed to avoid judicial review and inflicts significant harm on the applicants and on women seeking abortions in Texas, I dissent.”
Sen. Warren on the Texas abortion law: “This is why Congress should step up. Let’s remember that 70% of Americans want to see Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. The Supreme Court is not the only one who could provide that. Congress could pass Roe v. Wade”https://t.co/Ko0fOCj8EC
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) September 2, 2021
Nancy Northup, the head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said her group will “keep fighting this ban until abortion access is restored in Texas.”
“We are devastated that the Supreme Court has refused to block a law that blatantly violates Roe v. Wade,” she said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. “Right now, people seeking abortion across Texas are panicking — they have no idea where or when they will be able to get an abortion, if ever.
Do you agree with this court’s decision?
“Texas politicians have succeeded for the moment in making a mockery of the rule of law, upending abortion care in Texas, and forcing patients to leave the state — if they have the means — to get constitutionally protected healthcare. This should send chills down the spine of everyone in this country who cares about the constitution.”
Meanwhile, pro-life activists were ecstatic about the decision.
BREAKING NEWS!!!! The Supreme Court decision is out!! They will NOT interfere in the Texas Heartbeat Law!!! What an amazing victory!
Babies win!!!!! Life wins!!!!!
— Abby Johnson (@AbbyJohnson) September 2, 2021
“What an amazing victory! Babies win!!!!! Life wins!!!!!” Abby Johnson tweeted.