WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court is not immediately blocking the Texas law that bans most abortions, but it has agreed to hear arguments in the case on Nov. 1.
The justices said Friday they will decide whether the federal government has the right to sue over the law.
The court’s action leaves in place, for the time being, a law that clinics say has led to an 80% reduction in abortions in the nation’s second-largest state.
The law bans abortions after cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy. That’s before some women even know they are pregnant.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that she would have blocked the law now.
“The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now,” Sotomayor wrote. “These women will suffer personal harm from delaying their medical care, and as their pregnancies progress, they may even be unable to obtain abortion care altogether.”
The court’s hearing will be over a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice that seeks to prevent Texas from enforcing the law, which went into effect on Sept. 1.
The DOJ says its complaint is seeking a declaratory judgment that the Texas law is invalid under the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, it’s preempted by federal law, and it violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity.
The DOJ claims the law violates women’s rights to have an abortion procedure prior to viability, which is usually around 24 weeks. They also say the law contains no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape, sexual abuse, incest or for pregnancies involving a fetal defect incompatible with life after birth.
“The Act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” said Attorney General Garland in a statement. “The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.”
The law incriminates anyone who performs or induces a prohibited abortion, anyone who “knowingly” “aids or abets” the performance or inducement of a prohibited abortion, and anyone who “intends” to perform or aid a prohibited abortion.
“Additionally, instead of relying on the state’s executive branch to enforce the law, as is the norm in Texas and elsewhere, the state has deputized ordinary citizens to serve as bounty hunters, statutorily authorized to recover at least $10,000 per claim from individuals who facilitate a woman’s exercise of her own constitutional rights,” wrote the DOJ.