Supreme Court Allows Texas Heartbeat Act to Stand, but Says Abortionists Can Continue Lawsuits

The United States Supreme Court released Friday a pair of decisions in the challenges to a Texas law effectively banning abortions upon detection of a fetal heartbeat, rejecting the Biden administration’s challenge to the law while allowing abortion industry lawsuits to proceed in the lower courts.

Senate Bill 8, the Texas Heartbeat Act, requires abortionists to screen for a preborn baby’s heartbeat and prohibits abortion if a heartbeat can be heard (generally as early as six weeks), with exceptions only for medical emergencies. Its unique enforcement mechanism, which “exclusively” empowers private citizens to bring civil suits against abortionists instead of state prosecutions, has been credited for the Supreme Court’s September decision not to block it from taking effect.

Oral arguments last month indicated that a majority of justices were at least somewhat sympathetic to the state-level challenges but less so to the federal one, which was reflected in the outcomes.

The first decision in United States v. Texas runs a mere three sentences, and simply declares the Biden administration’s challenge to the law as “improvidently granted,” with left-wing Justice Sonia Sotomayor the only noted dissenter.

The second decision in Whole Woman’s Health et al v. Jackson (the abortion industry’s suit against the law) runs 48 pages and is more complicated. The majority opinion, by Trump-nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch, rules that challenges to the law prior to it being enforced are permissible against “some of the named defendants but not others.” (Read more from “Supreme Court Allows Texas Heartbeat Act to Stand, but Says Abortionists Can Continue Lawsuits” HERE)

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