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The Supreme Court allowed the trial

Pro-choice protesters protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. on November 1, 2021.

Yasin Ozturk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that a federal abortion vendor lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new tough abortion ban in Texas could be brought against some named defendants before the law is enforced against anyone.

However, the Supreme Court allowed Texas law to remain in effect during this appeal, which will be heard in a lower federal court. The Texas Heartbeat Act effectively bans most abortions in the state.

The ruling does not say whether the majority of the Supreme Court judges consider the ban unconstitutional. But in the end, the judges were able to answer this question once the lawsuit, entitled “Health of the whole woman v. Jackson,” is considered by the lower courts.

Also on Friday, the high court said a second trial challenging the law, filed by the Biden administration, could not continue.

Texas Act, also known as SB 8, went into effect in September.

It enables individuals to sue at least US $ 10,000 against anyone who “assists or instigates” an abortion after the discovery of a fetal heartbeat, usually after about six weeks of pregnancy. That is 18 weeks less than the Roe v. Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision, which upheld a woman’s constitutional right to abortion.

But until now, the law has not applied to any provider of abortion services. However, the abortion providers have filed a lawsuit seeking to declare the law unconstitutional and banned from use at the same time.

The court, in its decision 8-1, authorizing the consideration of the claim, noted that “there are also possible other viable ways to challenge the compliance of the law with the Federal Constitution, and the Court does not prejudge this possibility”.

This comment appeared the day after A Texas District Court judge ruled SB 8 violates the state constitution because of its mechanism for allowing individuals to enforce the law.

A state judge, in a ruling that was immediately challenged by an anti-abortion group, said the law gives legal status to people who have not been harmed by termination of pregnancy and constitutes “an illegal transfer of enforcement powers to a private individual.”

A Supreme Court ruling on Friday stated that abortionists cannot sue a state court clerk, Texas judge or Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

But they can sue the other named defendants, which include the executive directors of three state health councils – medical, nursing and pharmaceuticals – and Allison Benz, executive commissioner of the Texas Commission on Health and Human Services. This is because these councils and officials can take enforcement action against abortion providers if they violate the Texas Health and Safety Code, which includes SB 8, the Supreme Court ruling notes.

The decision came more than a week after the High Court heard oral arguments in a separate case, Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health, in which Mississippi asked judges to overturn longstanding precedents in support of constitutional abortion rights.

During these disputes, the 6-3 Conservative majority seemed ready to weaken this precedent, despite vigorous objections from three liberal judges.

“Will this institution survive the stench it creates in public opinion that the Constitution and its reading are merely political acts?” – the liberal judge Sonia Sotomayor wondered aloud. “I don’t understand how this is possible.”

Two cases challenging Texas law, one from the Biden administration and the other from a group of abortion vendors and advocates, were effectively merged and put on a fast track for briefings and arguments.

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SB 8 effectively bans most abortions in the state, banning the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, because many women by this point are not yet aware of their pregnancy.

The law provides for an exception for emergency medical care, but not for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

SB 8 explicitly excludes government officials from being able to enforce a law that was designed to avoid mentioning these officials in legal challenges to the ban before it was actually enforced.

Opponents argued that this structure was created with the intention of obstructing judicial review. Some Supreme Court conservatives seem to have agreed during the November 1 oral argument.

“A loophole was used here,” said Judge Brett Cavanaugh.

The abortion law, the country’s strictest, became a hot spot for contention in the Supreme Court even before the deadline officially began when a small majority refused to block the ban from going into effect in September.

This is the latest news. Please stay tuned.


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