The U.S Supreme Court has declined to block a Texas law banning abortions after a fetal cardiac activity can be detected, or as early as six weeks into pregnancy, and allowing anyone in the U.S. to sue abortion providers or others who help women get the procedure after that time frame.
The 5-4 ruling, handed down one minute before midnight, followed a daylong outcry from abortion rights groups and applause from anti-abortion advocates across the nation after the Texas prohibition took effect and several clinics said they would honor it. Similar abortion bans in other states had been quickly halted by federal courts before they took effect.
The court declined to block enforcement of the law, the most restrictive in the nation, over the objection of three liberal associate justices and Chief Justice John Roberts.
“The applicants now before us have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law at issue,” the court’s majority wrote in a short opinion. “But their application also presents a complex and novel antecedent procedural questions on which they have not carried their burden.”
Asserting that the questions raised by the case are “particularly difficult,” Roberts said he would have blocked the law’s enforcement temporarily. But Roberts nominated to the court by President George W. Bush, was unable to convince the court’s more conservative justices of that position.
The decision drew a sharply worded dissent from Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who described the Texas law as an effort to “circumvent” the court’s precedents.
“The court’s order is stunning,” Sotomayor wrote in a dissent joined by Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. “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.“