The Supreme Court formally denied a request from Texas abortion providers to freeze a state law that bars abortions after six weeks. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissent.
The court’s move means that the law — which is one of the strictest in the nation and bans abortion before many people know they are pregnant — will remain on the books. The law allows private citizens to bring civil suits against anyone who assists a pregnant person seeking an abortion in violation of the ban. In an unsigned opinion, the majority wrote that while the clinics had raised “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,” they had not met a burden that would allow the court to block it at this time due to “complex” and “novel” procedural questions.
The majority stressed that it had not formed a conclusion about the constitutionality of the law — despite the order coming nearly 24 hours after the law, the tightest abortion restrictions since the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade, took effect. “In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,” the majority wrote.
There were several dissents. In one, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by her two liberal colleagues, called the majority’s order “stunning.” “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand,” Sotomayor wrote. “No federal appellate court has upheld such a comprehensive prohibition on abortions before viability under current law,” she wrote. “Taken together, the Act is a breathtaking act of defiance — of the Constitution, of this Court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas.”