The state of Texas has passed new abortion legislation that bans the procedure from being performed on any pregnancies further along than six weeks. The law is considered to be the strictest abortion legislation in the country.
Texan abortion providers attempted to submit an emergency appeal in the hopes that the Supreme Court would block the ban entirely. The court voted to allow the law’s continued existence in a shocking 5-4 decision made just before midnight last night.
The court was deeply divided on the issue, with all three of its liberal members voting to block the law, along with Chief Justice John Roberts. The law is considered the biggest blow to abortion rights since the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade case where the court decided that abortion was a constitutional right.
Biden calls Texas abortion ban an “assault”
President Joe Biden responded in outrage to the decision early Thursday, calling the law an “assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade” as well as saying that there will be a “whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision” that considers “what steps the federal government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe.”
The law specifically outlaws abortions on pregnancies where a medical professional has already discovered cardiac activity, which typically occurs around the six week mark. The law was signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott this May, and is seen as part of a larger Republican movement to tighten restrictions on abortion across the country. 12 other states have attempted to introduce laws that ban early pregnancy abortions, but Texas’ is the first to be successful.
The high court said that the case did not meet the burden required for a stay of the law, and therefore they could not block it:
“In reaching this conclusion, we stress 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.”
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan spoke out passionately against the decision:
“Without full briefing or argument, and after less than 72 hours’ thought, this Court greenlights the operation of Texas’s patently unconstitutional law banning most abortions,” Kagan wrote in her dissent. “The Court thus rewards Texas’s scheme to insulate its law from judicial review by deputizing private parties to carry out unconstitutional restrictions on the State’s behalf.”
Sotomayor stood with Kagan, writing that the “court has rewarded the state’s efforts to delay federal review of a plainly unconstitutional statute,” continuing: “The court should not be so content to ignore its constitutional obligations to protect not only the rights of women, but also the sanctity of its precedents and of the rule of law.”
Sotomayor also said that the law was “a breathtaking act of defiance—of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas.”