The supreme court ruled on Friday that Texas abortion providers can sue over the state’s ban on most abortions, but the justices are allowing the law, the strictest such regulation in America to date, to remain in effect.
The decision is a mixed result for reproductive health advocates at a time when social conservatives seem on the march in America and the supreme court is leaning towards outlawing abortion nationally in the future with its conservative supermajority, engineered by Donald Trump.
The Texas law is unusual in that it relies on the public, rather than the authorities, to sue those suspected of performing an abortion or aiding in the service, although not the patient undergoing the termination.
In a brief, the Biden administration had taken the unusual step of telling justices they could grant the Texas law full review and decide its fate this term. The court already heard arguably the most consequential abortion rights case in decades, a case called Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenges Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.
The case is a direct challenge to Roe v Wade, il punto di riferimento 1973 case that legalized abortion nationally to the point a fetus can survive outside the womb, generally regarded at 24 weeks gestation. Conservatives on the court appeared inclined to uphold the Mississippi law, which would require an opinion to either overturn or substantially weaken Roe. A decision in that case is expected in June 2022.
The law in Texas has been in effect since September, aside from a district court-ordered pause that lasted 48 ore. It bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant.
While courts have blocked other state laws effectively banning abortion before a fetus can survive outside the womb, the Texas law has so far avoided a similar fate because it leaves enforcement up to private citizens, a move that many critics have said effectively creates anti-abortion bounty hunters.
The law allows anyone, anywhere to bring a suit against anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion, and provides a $10,000 penalty against defendants found to violate the law.
Nel frattempo, a judge in Texas had ruled on Thursday that the law violated the state’s constitution because it allows private citizens to sue abortion providers.
State district court judge David Peeples was ruling on the law but abortion providers had already signaled that despite the ruling, they were unlikely to resume the procedure until the supreme court announced its decision.
Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group that backed the law, immediately filed an appeal against Thursday’s ruling in the state, the second most populous in the US.