Supreme Court allows abortion providers to sue Texas law

The Supreme Court is seen in Washington on Wednesday evening, June 30, 2021, as the final rulings on the mandate are awaited. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)

(The Hill) – The Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for abortion providers to file a federal lawsuit challenging a restrictive Texas law that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

The ruling did not directly address the legality of the ban, and Texas law remains intact for now. Rather, the judges determined that federal courts have the power to review their legal challenges against some of the named defendants.

In a separate opinion, the judges rejected a similar challenge filed by the Justice Department.

In an 8-1 opinion from Judge Neil Gorsuch, the majority gave abortion providers a modest victory, the practical impact of which was not immediately certain.

The ruling allows providers to bring claims in lower federal courts against state licensing officials who, if successful, could prevent those officials from seeking to enforce violations of the abortion ban.

But some legal experts said the ruling gave Texas a roadmap to block those lawsuits.

“If Texas revised the law to make it clear that licensing officials have absolutely no role in implementing the law, then no one in Texas could be sued for banning it,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law. ‘University of California at Berkeley School of Law, which called Texas’ abortion ban “patently unconstitutional.”

The majority decision dismissed lawsuits brought by abortion providers against the Texas attorney general, as well as a number of state court judges and clerks and a private citizen.

Legal challenges to the Texas law have been trapped in thorny issues of the law’s unique legislative design, which critics have likened to a “bounty” system.

SB 8 allows citizens to bring private lawsuits against those who perform, aid, or encourage an abortion after fetal heart activity is detected, typically around six weeks pregnant – before most women know they are pregnant. . Successful prosecutions under SB 8, which contains no exceptions for rape or incest, bring in at least $ 10,000.

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