SCOTUS allows Texas abortion ban to stand while lawsuit moves forward

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling this week on a controversial abortion ban out of Texas that gave some wins and some losses to both sides of the argument.

According to Fox News, the high court allowed the law banning most abortions in the Lone Star State after around six weeks gestation to remain in place for the time being — but while the SCOTUS dismissed from the suit a number of defendants named by abortion providers, they didn’t throw out the case altogether.

Instead, abortion providers and pro-choice advocates will get the chance to continue fighting the law in court, albeit with a narrower list of defendants on the other side.

Clarence Thomas stands alone

Notably, the recent ruling from the Supreme Court didn’t address the issue of abortion itself, nor did it address the merits of challenges to the unique enforcement mechanism of the Texas law, which empowers private citizens to file civil suits against abortion providers, rather than the state taking action.

Instead, the decision from SCOTUS focused on the issue of “pre-enforcement” challenges and who could and couldn’t be sued.

Writing for the five-member conservative majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch dismissed from the suit as defendants all state-level court clerks and judges, given that they would serve as “neutral” parties in any civil suits filed and were not considered to be “adversarial.”

According to Fox, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was similarly dismissed as a defendant in the suit, given that he — as the top law enforcement officer in the state — would also play no role in any sort of enforcement of the Texas law. Also dismissed was a private pro-life activist who providers feared would file suits against them, but who had sworn in an affidavit that he would not.

Still, by a margin of 8–1 that left Justice Clarence Thomas alone in dissent, the court concluded that the suit filed by abortion providers can proceed against four state licensing officials, in light of the fact that those officials could be required by other statutes to engage in disciplinary actions — such as stripping licenses and certifications — against providers who run afoul of any Texas laws regarding abortion, including the new one known as S.B. 8.

Roberts joins liberals in dissent

Chief Justice John Roberts, meanwhile, sided with his three liberal colleagues in dissent, authoring an opinion that made clear he believes the other individuals should not have been dismissed from the suit and the law itself, he argued, should have been preliminarily blocked from going into effect.

According to Fox, Roberts’ dissent also touched on the uniqueness of the Texas law and how it seemingly attempts to avoid federal judicial review before defending precedents set by the court in prior cases, as he is apt to do.

Also authoring a fiery dissent was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who keyed in on the issue of abortion itself while attacking both Texas and the Gorsuch-led majority on the SCOTUS.

For now, the Texas case has essentially been kicked back down to the lower courts to move forward in a more limited fashion. But the suit will almost assuredly end up back on the Supreme Court’s docket before all is said and done — and only time will tell how the justices will ultimately decide on what could be one of the biggest landmark cases of this generation.

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