The Texas Supreme Court late last week ruled against abortion providers seeking to have a law barring the procedure after a fetal heart tone is detected, which generally occurs at around six weeks, ending the final challenge to the statute.
“Today, the Texas Supreme Court said ‘no’ to the claim made by abortionists that state officials have a role in enforcing the Texas Heartbeat Law – which is not how the law is designed,” said a report on the decision posted online Friday.
“Justice Jeff Boyd wrote that giving enforcement authority to state officials goes against the plain language of the statute, which specifically requires the law to be enforced by private citizens and forbids government enforcement,” the report added.
Jonathan Saenz, the president of the pro-life org Attorney for Texas Values, agreed with the ruling, noting: “Once again, the Texas Heartbeat Law prevailed in court – not only at the U.S. Supreme Court, but now at the Texas Supreme Court.”
“The high court rejected the abortion groups’ faulty interpretation of this pro-life law and as a result, this life-or-death case should be dismissed. Babies win again,” Saenz added.
According to ABC affiliate KVUE, the high court ruled that state licensing boards neither directly nor indirectly enforce the law, which effectively ends an eight-month challenge by abortion providers.
The outlet noted that the challenge regarding enforcement of the law also made it to the U.S. Supreme Court last December, when justices ruled against most of the arguments made by abortion providers. However, the nation’s highest court did allow a narrow challenge regarding the state’s licensing boards to move forward but remanded the case back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Abortion providers were hoping the appeals court would send the case to a federal district court that previously blocked the law, however, the appeals panel instead sent it to the Texas Supreme Court, KVUE noted.
Lawyers for abortion providers argued that the Texas medical licensing board can take away licenses from physicians who perform abortions after fetal heart tones are heard, which means the board can effectively enforce the law and as such, the state can be sued. But the Texas high court disagreed:
Senate Bill 8 provides that its requirements may be enforced by a private civil action, that no state official may bring or participate as a party in any such action, that such an action is the exclusive means to enforce the requirements, and that these restrictions apply notwithstanding any other law. Based on these provisions, we conclude that Texas law does not grant the state-agency executives named as defendants in this case any authority to enforce the Act’s requirements, either directly or indirectly.
The law took effect in September 2021, and lawsuits were immediately filed to overturn it.
“The law bans abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, which is typically at six weeks gestation and before most women know they are pregnant,” KVUE reported. “Under the law, almost anyone can sue a Texas doctor who performs or has an intent to perform an abortion or anyone who aides a woman in receiving an abortion and be awarded at least $10,000.
“The only exception to the law is for medical emergencies that put a woman’s health at risk,” the report continued.
The U.S. Supreme Court has another abortion case before it involving a Mississippi law that bans all abortions after 15 weeks. Pro-life supporters are hoping that, at a minimum, justices will not strike down the Mississippi statute and by doing so return the issue of abortion to states where it once resided and where it should always have resided under the principles of constitutional federalism.
They could also overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide as well.
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