For the fourth time, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take action to protect pregnant Texans against Texas’s blatantly unconstitutional abortion ban that has ended most abortion access in the state.
The latest ruling came on January 20 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson when the Court denied a request by the Center for Reproductive Rights to order the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to remand the case to the district court after months of delay since the law took effect on September 1.
On January 17, the Fifth Circuit sent the case to the Texas Supreme Court, preventing the Center from getting back to the district court and obtaining a declaration that this ban is unconstitutional. On January 3, the Center filed a petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Supreme Court to order the Fifth Circuit to return the case to the district court immediately, where the Center stands a chance of blocking some government officials from enforcing the ban. The Supreme Court has now denied that request, allowing the state of Texas to slow walk the case and prevent any form of relief against the ban.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, wrote a scathing dissent, calling out the majority for standing by while Texas denies women their constitutional right to abortion after designing its law to evade judicial review.
“This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies,” said Justice Sotomayor. “I will not stand by silently as a State continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee.”
The Supreme Court also failed on three previous occasions to block the Texas law—which bans abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy and incentivizes individuals, including anti-abortion activists, to bring costly and harassing lawsuits against anyone who provides abortion care or assists someone in obtaining an abortion in violation of the ban.
On December 10, in a 5-4 decision, the Court dismissed the most significant part of the Center’s case, ruling that the providers could not bring suit against state judges and clerks or the state Attorney General. On October 22, the Court declined to immediately block the law as requested by the United States Department of Justice. On September 1—the day the Texas ban took effect—the Court denied the Center’s emergency request to block the law, allowing it to remain in effect.
“State officials knew that the fear and confusion caused by this legal-procedural labyrinth would restrict citizens from accessing constitutionally protected medical care, providers from offering it, and federal courts from restoring it,” continued Justice Sotomayor. “The dilatory tactics to which this Court accedes today are consistent with, and part of, this scheme.”
“As a result, the District Court will remain powerless to address S. B. 8’s unconstitutional chill on abortion care, likely for months to come,” added Justice Sotomayor.
Texans Will Continue to Be Denied Abortion Access Without Relief
Since September 1, almost all abortion access has ended in Texas, forcing people seeking care to drive hundreds of miles to other states. Others without the means to travel are being forced to carry pregnancies against their will.
“Texans have been without abortion access for almost five months now, and there is no end in sight because the Supreme Court has done nothing to stop this unconstitutional ban,” said Center president and CEO Nancy Northup in a statement. The Court “is allowing the state of Texas to deprive people of a constitutional right. Seven other states have already introduced copycat bans now that the Court has let Texas get away with this ploy,” added Northup.